In 2006 talent agent and producer Peter Safran left Brillstein-Grey to start his own company. Now he’s taking the mix of talents and assets to the web. Like a growing list of Hollywood bigs doing similar, he’s signed a new deal to develop original online video content. In Safran’s case, however, there’s a catch. He is not setting out to create the next YouTube viral video sensation; he’s not looking to syndicate widely either. Instead he’s taking his productions and going Xbox.
Many of the exact details of the deal haven’t been disclosed ( an interview on Newteevee.com does add some detail). Through his agreement with Microsoft, it is clear Safran and team will seek to recruit filmmakers to create original episodic content aimed at the Xbox’s 15-34 male demographic. The programs will air, initially, through the Xbox live video platform. After some exclusive window, they may then expand to wider release on the Internet. Some of the shows may be offered in a pay per view format similar to other video offerings (including feature films) offered through the service. Others may be streamed for free in an advertising supported format. Ouside funding is involved in producing the films. Presumably, Microsoft is paying some portion of those development costs and sharing revenue – most likely, both.
The twist of Safran going “Xbox-only” seems to be a first for professional Internet video but it’s not without upside. Unlike YouTube or other video sites, the Internet distribution service for the Xbox (e.g. Xbox Live) has a narrowly targeted audience whose interests are relatively consistent. That paradigm suggests it will easier to capture attention and stand out from other content.
Though smaller in scale, the Xbox audience isn’t trivial either. Currently about 10m of 18million Xbox owners are registered members.
Where Safron’s efforts may stand out the most is as a test of the TV crossover potential for net video. Previously, shows like Quarterlife failed to find audience when making the transition. The format and style didn’t translate to scheduled TV entertainment. Safran’s effort, given the targeted demographic and on-demand nature, has the potential to hedge that. His programs will air on the widescreen of a TV but stream over the net on an on-demand schedule. Will that be the difference? It’s a question that will linger until he produces the answer.
For now, “Xbox Only” is a novel distribution twist. It’s also another experienced Hollywood veteran jumping to join the circus of net video. Others on growing list include: Michael Eisner via Vuguru, Will Ferrel (Funny or Die), The Coen Brothers (60 Frames Entertainment), Disney’s Stage 9 Digital Media, Jerry Zucker (National Banana) and more.
According to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketing manager Scott Nocas, Safran’s deal is the “the first of many.” The first programs produced under the deal should air by the fall.
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