One of the first breakout Web stars has returned to the role that brought him to Internet fame three years ago.
Hayden Black, the creator and star of Goodnight Burbank, inked a production deal with United Kingdom-based Babelgum.com that brings the new spinoff Goodnight Burbank: Hollywood Report to the United States launch of Babelgum. The first of 20 episodes premiered the week of March 23, with new 5-minute episodes slated to roll out every week.
It’s Black’s first production deal with a distributor for a web series and he also has lined up his next deal for a new show with Dailymotion. He said he will make money on the Babelgum deal, though he declined to disclose the financial terms. Hhowever, there’s no guarantee the show will be a success on Babelgum, which faces its own challenges. The site has virtually no market share in the online video business. According to Compete, the site is averaging less than 100,000 visitors per month in the United States.
But if Black can pull in some of the audiences who have been drawn to his other shows, the spinoff might have a fighting chance. Black said Goodnight Burbank has amassed 10 million views during its two-year run. For the past three years he’s financed his shows Goodnight Burbank and Abigail’s Teen Diary from his pocket via his production company Evil Global Corp. with the occasional ad deal thrown in. “We’ve spent three years producing at a personal deficit, and ad revenue from the video web portals doesn’t even begin to cover costs,” Black said.
Now, he’s taking the proverbial next step and has made two full-time hires — business development and legal — to handle offers that are coming in. He’s currently finalizing a deal with Dailymotion for a sci-fi musical comedy series and is talking to DVD makers and video game companies about bringing shows to those mediums, he said.
For its part, Babelgum is trying to make inroads into the U.S. market. In a statement, Babelgum CEO Valerio Zingarelli said, “We’ve carefully tailored our mobile programming to local markets, based on research into national tastes and viewing habits. This customized approach has been a success in the UK and Italy, and we’re now ready to take the product to the U.S. market.”
Babelgum will announce advertisers in the coming weeks, a spokesman said.
Goodnight Burbank: Hollywood Report features the same cast and same fictional TV station, but this time the reporters are working on a daytime entertainment show. “It’s the trials and tribulations of an entertainment show that doesn’t quite have the chops,” Black said. Those tribulations will include Black’s character sharing a jail cell with Tom Hanks and the station manager running for mayor of Burbank, Black said.
For the U.S. launch, Babelgum redesigned its site with a Flash player and is also offering its shows on mobile phones. The company did not share unique visitors, but said its mobile applications already reach about 25-30 percent of iPhone users in the UK and Italy