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INTERNET—Carsey Werner Follows Streaming Video to the Internet

Studio City-based Carsey-Werner-Mandabach LLC and Yahoo! Inc. inked a deal under which the highly successful television producers will provide content for the Internet company’s streaming video business. Yahoo!, which will begin offering the programming free of charge, hopes to use the content to help launch a pay streaming video service, Yahoo! Broadcast in January. But don’t expect to see “Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” or any of the other network sitcoms Carsey Werner is famous for on the Internet anytime soon. The first show to air under the venture will be “Townies,” a 1996 flop that was cancelled midway through the season by ABC. Only 10 of the original 15 episodes initially created ever aired. No matter, some say. Streaming video is positioned to emerge as the next thing, spiking the demand for content. And while “Townies” may not have found an audience, some of its stars, including Jenna Elfman and Molly Ringwald, certainly have. Jonathan Kramer, a Los Angeles-based media consultant, said the deal likely marks the beginning of what could be a trend toward more video-based content on the Internet, particularly as more consumers switch to high speed and wide band connection services. “You’re probably going to see more deals like that,” Kramer said. Carsey Werner principals Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach have formed a new division for the venture, CW eDistribution LLC, with plans to bring full-length episodes from their library of programs along with content, like bloopers and out-takes, based on their Fox Broadcasting Co. show “That 70s Show,” to the Internet. “It’s a very strong opportunity for us,” said Robert E. Raleigh, president of Carsey Werner Domestic Television, which oversees CW eDistribution. “We’re trying to cultivate the entertainment market of the Internet in its early stages,” he said, referring to the fledgling streaming video efforts on the Web. “We’ll put material from ‘That 70s Show,’ like behind the scenes table reads, bloopers, photo shoots, video interviews. These are the forms of brand extensions that you don’t see on broadcast television.” Raleigh projects what he calls “dramatic growth” in video-based programming for the Internet in the next three years. He likened the growth of the Internet to that of cable television in the 1980s. “It wasn’t that long ago that cable was in 20 million households and it couldn’t compete in terms of revenue, but look at it now and cable is everywhere,” he said. “Townies,” Raleigh said, will likely be the first network television series to air full length episodes on the Internet. The company hopes to add additional shows next year, although it would be precluded from running shows that are in conflict with reruns that currently air on local broadcast stations. Along with other Carsey Werner shows, Raleigh hopes the deal will help build a new, niche audience for the producers. “We’re going to build our business around those properties that many people already know about,” he said. Although details of the initial deal were not disclosed, Raleigh said the Yahoo! pact could bring the company up to $1 million in the next three years, far less than the going rate in the broadcast syndication market, where distributors paid $500 million for the rights to “The Cosby Show” in 1992. Meanwhile, Yahoo! Has already begun airing other content, including vintage commercials, celebrity interviews, music videos and movie clips on its streaming video Web site. Marc Montoya, Yahoo! Broadcast general manager, said the company will begin offering a pay service by January, featuring special programming like music concerts, television specials and other programs. The company is still working on deals for those shows. Yahoo, which has 210 million monthly users, has not yet determined the fees it will charge for its service. Another streaming video company, Real Networks Inc., is offering a similar pay service, dubbed Gold Pass, for $9.95 per month on the Internet. CW eDistribution was established in May to provide streaming video programs and online advertising for customers. The company is a unit of Carsey-Werner LLC, a privately-held company which reported $240 million in revenue last year.

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