EQAL Foregoes Originals, Gets Cookin’ With Paula Deen

The folks at EQAL, who practically put the concept of newteevee on the map with lonelygirl15, are foregoing original content to focus on building online extensions of established brands, like the company’s new project with TV chef Paula Deen. What does it say about the state of original episodic content online when one of its biggest success stories believes its future lies in traditional TV?

We first learned about this news in a post over at MediaWeek, so we talked with EQAL’s co-founder and COO, Greg Goodfried, to find out more. “We have taken a shift, currently, from recurring serial dramas to focus on working with existing entertainment properties,” said Goodfried.

Some of those existing properties Goodfried is talking about include its partnership with CBS for Harper’s Island/Globe, working with Anthony Zuiker (creator of the CSI franchise) on the Level26.com portion of his “digi-novel,” an upcoming project with actress Alicia Silverstone, and a new project quietly being rolled out with southern belle chef Deen.

EQAL is running the digital extension of Deen’s cooking empire and is charged with the creation of Get Cookin’, an online community/cooking/reality show (which presumably will involve lots of butter and bacon). Goodfried went on the road with the Deen crew to shoot behind-the-scenes footage of stuff like her recent trip for an appearance on Good Morning America. EQAL will work to bring the Deen family and fans together online to interact with each other through videos, blog posts and more. EQAL is also working on ad sales for Deen online.

What drove EQAL, kings of new media, into the warm embrace of old media? Goodfried said there were two factors. First, traditional media brands were coming to EQAL looking for this kind of digital extension. Second, he said it’s unreasonable to think you can come up with an original idea and expect advertisers to finance it anymore. Advertisers want brands that already have a built-in audience (like Paula Deen).

This desire for a known brand is something we’ve heard before. ABC (s DIS) abandoned original online content in favor of creating off-shoots of established TV shows like Ugly Betty.

EQAL hasn’t abandoned original content entirely. “We definitely believe in the creation and production of original content for the Internet,” Goodfried said. It’s just more challenging now. Goodfried believes original content creation needs to be done dirt cheap and it needs to have its own hub where a community can be built (and become less reliant on the promotional whims of YouTube (s GOOG)). Even then, though, Goodfried says, those brands will still have a hard time reaching and establishing relationships with advertisers.

One thing is for sure, Goodfried will be reaching for some plus-sized pants if Get Cookin’ takes off and he has to spend a lot of time on the road with the Deen entourage.