Virtual Hollywood the New Cable?

30Oct11

Web Series "Prom Queen" (Image: http://blogswork.wordpress.com/2007/07/)

In 2006, former Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner founded the digital studio Vuguru. Vuguru has created Web series such as “Prom Queen” and “The Booth at the End.” Part of Vuguru’s business strategy is to apply “familiar ‘old-media’ business models to underwrite the cost of digital production…designed to attract advertisers who are eager to follow audiences onto the Web and portable devices—but also is packaged in a familiar-enough format to be placed on TV” (LA Times). It cost Vuguru $300K to create “The Booth,” which is about one sixth of what networks spend on hour-long TV dramas (LA Times). Having that kind of budget is an indication of the growth of web production. Vuguru is compared to cable in that “[i]n the same way that cable networks became the new birthplace for groundbreaking content this past decade, . . . digital platforms will yield the next wave of original premium content” (Vuguru, Us).  When cable first came out it gave broadcast television a run for its money, and everyone was predicting that cable would lead to the end of broadcast television. A decade later, this still has not occurred. I imagine the same will be the same in the case of web production. While “Virtual Hollywood” may affect film and television’s traditional models, it will not lead to their demise. “Eisner predicts that digital distribution will one day be the first stop for new projects, in the same way cable channels HBO, AMC and FX now compete with networks” (LA Times). This form of competition would be great because it a positive response to a change in society. Sometimes these media entrepreneurial endeavors are associated with those who just couldn’t quite make it in Hollywood, but Vuguru is an example of the opposite. Eisner was able to pull together an executive team with great experience in the new media, tv, and film industries, which surely ads to the success potential of Vurguru as a business.

The development of new waves in the media world like this “Virtual Hollywood” highlights the rise in entrepreneurship that Charles Davis and Susan Christopherson describe in their articles Startups, Self-Employment, and Standing Reserve and Structure, Strategy, and Subjectivity in Entertainment Media respectively. (Deuze 2011)

–Sade Oshinubi

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