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Programming's Brave New World

Planning the Next Big Thing at

November 12, 2000|DAVID GEFFNER

Every Tuesday, the creative team behind Eruptor Entertainment hunkers down for a production meeting in a cramped Marina del Rey warehouse on a street better known for auto-body repair than super-hip companies.

The goal? To create a youth-oriented hit series for the Web the way "South Park" assaulted cable television. Today's topic: "," one of more than 40 projects Eruptor has in development. It's an ambitious blend of live Webcast, live Webchat and packaged highlights from the popular L.A.-based nightclub Giant.

"So, we're leaning against the whole Hollywood VIP thing for the 'LivinGiant' launch party?" quizzes Eruptor President and CEO Brad Foxhoven, who, like many CEOs in online entertainment, has yet to hit 30.

"We don't want it to look like some cheesy Academy Awards show with celebrities who aren't even part of the rave music scene posing for the cameras," replies Brian Selzer, the soft-spoken senior VP of production.

Foxhoven, Stephanie Burnham, senior VP of marketing, and Clay Loveless, senior VP of technology, nod emphatically.

Aiming straight at the 13- to 35-year-old market, Eruptor has launched animated properties that would be right at home in a TV pitch session. "The Marty Show," an obnoxious talk-show host who berates his guests; "Jonni Nitro," a sleek and sexy female spy with cutting-edge black-and-white graphics; and the "," which provides more than half of the company's revenue through e-commerce tie-ins. The rest comes from syndication deals and sponsors such as Columbia TriStar and 20th Century Fox.

Like all Eruptor projects, "" is being produced for virtual pennies, what a TV network might spend on catering for a new pilot. Using two digital cameras and a roving hostess, "" will break new ground for the upstart start-up, as well as for the nascent online entertainment industry.

"This medium is so wide open," Foxhoven says as his troops navigate back to their desks through unopened computer boxes, mountain bikes and other staples of the work environment. He remains upbeat even as deep-pocket competitors such as DEN (Digital Entertainment Network) go down in flames.

"Nobody's quite certain where online entertainment is going," Foxhoven says. "But we know there's a huge underground youth culture converging on the Web. We can produce a new show and get it up on our site in two weeks. Within hours of its debut we have hundreds of e-mails telling us, in no uncertain terms, what our viewers think about it. I'd like to see Michael Eisner or Rupert Murdoch pull that off with the Nielsens."

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