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Monday, August 27, 2007

Two articles on new approaches to monetizing content

- The NY Times writes about a new ad-sharing deal that Trey Parker of Matt Stone, creators of 'South Park', have cut with Viacom. From David Halbfinger's piece:

    ...Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker and their bosses at Comedy Central, a unit of Viacom’s MTV Networks, are attempting to leapfrog to the vanguard of Hollywood’s transition into Web. In a joint venture that involves millions in up-front cash and a 50-50 split of ad revenues, the network and the two creative partners have agreed to create a hub to spread “South Park”-related material across the Net, mobile platforms, and video games.

    The deal, signed Friday, begins with a three-year extension of the show and its creators’ contracts through a 15th season, in the year 2011, and gives Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker sizable raises, both in their salaries and in their guaranteed advances against back-end profits from DVDs, merchandising, syndication and international sales.

    It also creates an entity called SouthParkStudios.com, to be housed in the show’s animation studio in Culver City, Calif., that is intended to be an incubator not only for new applications for characters the likes of Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny, but for new comedy concepts that could one day mature into TV series of their own.

    All told, people involved in the deal confirm that it is worth some $75 million to Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone over the next four years.

For me, the interesting lesson here is that properties that don't figure out how to become a big presence on the Web -- easy to watch for free, or to purchase -- are in danger of lapsing into irrelevance. I hadn't realized how little 'South Park' I'd been watching online (and how much other animated stuff, like 'Red vs. Blue' or 'Homestar Runner') until I read this piece.

- The LA Times says that MySpace may soon lift its ban on commerce, allowing musicians and filmmakers, for instance, to sell CDs or DVDs from their MySpace pages. Joseph Menn writes:

    By officially barring most commerce, MySpace is leaving a lot of money on the table. The company talked to Google Inc. and EBay Inc. about teaming up to organize user-to-user sales, but nothing has emerged.

    Executives hint that something big is in the offing. [Co-founder Chris] DeWolfe said peer-to-peer transactions have to be "fun, safe and secure." Selling only to your friends, for instance, might be both fun and safer than bidding on EBay, MySpace employees said. One person said MySpace could be on the verge of a sweeping deal to give it tools to better monetize and monitor the commerce activities of its members.

Of course, the current "ban" on commerce is not consistently enforced -- many filmmakers already have links from their pages to Amazon.com, where their DVDs can be bought.

And musicians can use MySpace to sell downloads.

But this could make MySpace much more of a bustling content marketplace...

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