Vuguru, the digital studio run by Michael Eisner’s The Tornante Co., will become a standalone entity with investment and a distribution agreement with Canada’s Rogers Media, the broadcasting and publishing arm of Rogers Communications (s RCI).
The deal is significant for Vuguru, which was out front of the original premium online video movement but simply hasn’t made very much content. With the new investment, the company plans to eventually make 30 web series per year (next year, a more modest 10 to 15). Rogers will have exclusive Canadian rights to the projects (which, no offense to the big online video watchers in Canada, is only a sliver of the total potential market for any content).
The deal keeps Eisner on as chairman of Vuguru, which he’d started in 2006 (see our initial story). So far, the company has made Prom Queen with Big Fantastic, which saw some 15 million views in its first run but only made “a couple thousand dollars,” though it later was sold internationally and as a DVD. Then Vuguru made The All-For-Nots, Foreign Body, and Back on Topps — of which the latter was the biggest success. Topps was sold to Comedy Central, which is developing it as a TV pilot.
The company is now (finally) launching another season of Prom Queen, which it’s now calling a “hit franchise” — not too big of a stretch in this day and age of web content, but interesting since Eisner had previously said publicly there wasn’t much money in it. Other series include (from the press release) “The Booth at the End, a new psychological thriller created by Internet-savvy writer Christopher Kubasik and helmed by veteran television director Jessica Landaw; and Pretty Tough, an adaptation of a successful young adult novel from accomplished television writer and producer Liz Tigelaar.”
Having built-in paid distribution is a good way to make money from original web content, though the size of the Rogers investment has not yet been disclosed. Vuguru also said it would “work with brand sponsors and distribution platforms to meet their programming goals.”