WhirlGirl, a Web-born comic strip, is going prime time with the help of its New York-based creator, Visionary Media. The company has struck a deal with Lycos to bring weekly episodes featuring the leggy sci-fi heroine to the search service's entertainment channel.
For Lycos, the deal, which is expected to be announced this week, is part of a new strategy to add more original programming to its service to induce repeat visits and viewer loyalty. Lycos also feels audience-specific content such as WhirlGirl will enable it to sell ads targeted to select demographics, regions and interest levels, said Dave Peterson, vice president of advertising at Waltham, Mass.-based Lycos. The company's findings reveal that its users return frequently to the site to look up science fiction-themed content.
As part of the deal, the two companies will split advertising revenue, in return for promoting WhirlGirl throughout the site. Lycos-owned Tripod, a community of user-generated sites, is also interested in the deal. It is mulling plans to permit Tripod users to incorporate WhirlGirl imagery into their homepages.
Lycos and Tripod, with more than 15 million monthly visitors combined, according to Web measurement firm RelevantKnowledge, Atlanta, are WhirlGirl's biggest distribution partners since Visionary Media earlier this year initiated a new strategy of syndicating the strip to online broadcast outlets such as WebTV and BMG Entertainment's Bugjuice.com. Washington, D.C.-based Another Universe plans to build a store selling WhirlGirl merchandise on its site, due up this week. Visionary Media is also expanding offline with a merchandising deal to bring WhirlGirl-branded apparel to stores by Christmas and it is in negotiations with a producer to bring the serial to television.
During its second season, which kicks off in August, WhirlGirl episodes will be souped up with flash animation. "We designed it to be more like a spectacle," said Glenn Ginsburg, vice president of business development at Visionary Media. It attracts an audience heavy in teen girls and 18- to 35-year-olds, plus advertisers such as Microsoft and Web retailer Onsale.