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YouTube video-game channel Machinima aims for the next level

Machinima has the fourth-highest number of subscribers on the video website and is reaching beyond its roots into live-action programming. It's catching the attention of advertisers and Wall Street.

January 24, 2012|By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times

Each episode of "Bite Me" attracted 3 million to 4 million viewers — enough to catch the attention of the film and TV studio Lionsgate and its digital media president, Curt Marvis. The studio, which used the YouTube channel to promote movies such as "The Expendables" and "Conan the Barbarian," partnered with Machinima on a second season of "Bite Me." The episodes premiere March 6 on YouTube, then get stitched together into six half-hour television episodes to air on the FearNet cable channel, which is owned by Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Television and Comcast Corp. Ultimately, they will be available for purchase through Apple Inc.'s iTunes and Amazon.com.

Machinima's greatest success came with "Mortal Kombat: Legacy," a nine-part series made for about $2 million. The series, inspired by the tournament fighting game, got 50 million YouTube views, DeBevoise said. "We're told it's the most successful Web series ever."

Now Machinima has the attention of Wall Street. In December, the company retained the investment firm Allen & Co. in an effort to raise $25 million. The money is intended to finance the acquisition and creation of more premium content, bolster the company's ad sales team and develop technology, said Sanjay Sharma, Machinima's senior vice president of business development.

Industry insiders speculate that Machinima is looking to extend its already-popular brand across additional platforms, such as Facebook, or to smartphones and tablets powered by Apple or Google software.

"You're going to watch Machinima take the base that they've built, which is extraordinary, and build it further with original programming," MediaLink's Kassan said. "Machinima may be that success story that people point to … the first company to break through [on YouTube] to the next level."

dawn.chmielewski@latimes.com

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