It got lost in the wake of the CNET acquisition last week, but CBS (CBS) has inked a first-look deal with the guys who created “lonelygirl15” and “KateModern” Miles Beckett and Greg Goodfried. Their mission? Web-ify CBS’s ageing current lineup, consult on the interactive aspects of future shows, and create original new series.
CBS does just fine offline, and online it does ok with a handful of shows like the online version of Big Brother. What it doesn’t have: Substantial and popular online components for its bread and butter: Crime procedurals such as “CSI,” “Without A Trace,” and “Cold Case.” We asked Beckett and Goodfried, who recently formed a Web production company called EQAL (tagline: the show is everywhere), what they planned to do about that.
SAI: CBS Interactive chief Quincy Smith has said in the past that shows like “CSI” didn’t necessarily lend themselves to the Web. What’s your feeling?
Miles Beckett: Generally speaking, crime procedurals are great, because they have a mystery element that can work amazingly well online. We can spin off portions online, and have fans work together to solve it, or outsource part of the plot.
Greg Goodfried: With each episode you learn a little bit more about the bad guy, and see some of that content filter into the TV show.
SAI: Does the fact that you’re working with CBS change the economic model for Web video? Do you still have to produce it on a shoestring?
Beckett: It’s not going to change things dramatically. Going from “lonelygirl15” to “KateModern” was a big step up in terms of budget. But the budget for “KateModern” was a few thousand dollars per minute. We are tight with costs. With CBS, there are economies of scale. We can use their locations, their talent and their video, which allows us to keep costs down.
SAI: How does your deal with CBS compare with the standard writer-producer first-look deal?
Goodfried: Miles and I went around Hollywood looking at these deals. Then we were more writer-producers but now we’re a company, so this is more of a partnership. There are three components: general consulting with producers and head writers on how to use the Internet for those shows, building Web extensions of existing shows, and working with writers on a script level to help them produce online content.
SAI: If CBS has first crack at all your ideas, does this mean you won’t be producing the kind of original Web series that made you successful?
Beckett: If we do original Internet shows, they don’t have first-look on that. (CBS does have first-look on anything with a TV component).
SAI: You’ve already said “KateModern” won’t be back after the current season, but what about “lonelygirl15?”
Beckett: That’s to-be-determined. The LG15 universe is alive and well. The production of “lonelygirl15” was never as formal as “KateModern.” It’s been a week-by-week process.
SAI: Michael Eisner’s “Prom Queen” was sold into international TV syndication. Do you expect to licence or produce foreign versions of Lonelygirl15 for TV?
Beckett: If we do international versions it will be a localised show rather than taking the existing show and dubbing. We are definitely going to do international versions of that brand, but it won’t be a straight-up licensing deal, but more like a co-production.
Goodfried: In some ways “KateModern” was our first internationalized version (in the UK) of “lonelygirl15,” and Miles spent three months over there as a showrunner.
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