Former Disney chief Michael Eisner has apparently set his sights on the Internet, announcing the formation of a new indepenent studio Vuguru with the mission to create and distribute original digital content. Vuguru intends to establish itself as as the leader in high-quality, story-driven content for the Internet which, “up until now,” could only be found in movies and television.
“In the past few years, the development of exciting and innovative digital media platforms and technologies has outpaced the creation of truly great content,” said Michael Eisner. “Vuguru will produce and showcase original and third party content in all genres and formats to meet the new demands of the evolving media landscape.”
Vuguru’s first production is Prom Queen, a scripted mystery which will unfold over 80 90-second episodes beginning April 2, 2007. The short-form episodes are designed to translate well acress multiple platforms (no doubt including the Internet and mobile phones) and appeal to technologically-hip young viewers. Prom Queen videos will be hosted by Veoh (another company in which Eisner invests); Prom Queen will also be available via sponsor ELLEgirl.com and video-sharing giant YouTube, as well as other sites.
Vuguru is a spin-off of Einser’s Tornante Company, which produced Prom Queen in conjuntion with independent production team Big Fantastic, which produced the online video podcast/serial Sam Has 7 Friends.
Vuguru announced a spate of sponsors for Prom Queen, including Fiji Water, POM Wonderful (Pomegranate Juice and POM Tea), and Teleflora.com, in addition to Ellegirl. The company also made apparel partnerships with Victoria’s Secret Pink, Jessica McClintock, People’s Liberation, HotKiss, and others, and a partnership with StarStyle.com will let viewers buy items features in Prom Queen episodes while watching.
It’s no clear whether online video serials/video podcasts have enough market momentum to pay off for sponsors—or whether the coveted teenage girl demographic targeted by Prom Queen will tolerate 80 episodes laden with product placement and sponsorship tie-ins. But Eisner was always fond of starting new projects in last place, noting “You can’t fall off the floor.” And there’s no doubt advertisers are all about getting their brands out to new media, even if that media doesn’t yet know what it’s doing.