NEW YORK The producers of the popular Net series Lonelygirl15 are spinning off a new show, which they plan to support through product placement deals.
Debuting in July, "Lonelygirl15 presents ... KateModern" tracks a teenage college student in London, chronicling her social life and "dark forces" that lurk in the background.
Like Lonelygirl15, KateModern will feature interactive elements, allowing fans to post comments, help solve puzzles and upload video responses. The videos typically will run from two to four minutes.
The series will not include pre-roll video advertising, but will instead weave product placements into the plot. Lonelygirl15 last month ran its first product placement, including Hershey's Icebreaker's Sours Gum in an episode.
The new series, which will air multiple times per week, has a distribution deal with Bebo, the most popular social network in the United Kingdom, which will create a KateModern profile on the site. The show will run on Bebo sites in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. It will subsequently air on LG15.com and other sites.
This marks the first content deal Bebo has struck. With over 7 million monthly users in the U.K., Bebo outpaces social network giant MySpace. Its larger rival is also looking to convert its platform into a content distribution channel. MySpace is airing clips and episodes from NBC and Fox as part of a planned Web syndication service.
Social networks see the success of such programming as key to making money from their large audiences. Typical online ad units on MySpace pages fetch less that $1 CPMs. Both MySpace and Bebo have turned to more immersive ad programs, like advertising profile pages and contests. Original programming would provide another avenue.
"We're still learning what works," said Joanna Shields, president of international operations at Bebo, who joined the company three months ago from her post as Google's head of strategic partnerships for Europe.
Independent video creators like Lonelygirl15's are also seeking out a sustainable revenue model. The series rose to prominence on YouTube last summer, when her video blogs appeared as the real-life ruminations of a wise-beyond-her-years, home-schooled teen. The clips were eventually revealed as fictional, but Lonelygirl15 has remained popular on YouTube and LG15.com.
A Lonelgirl15 rep said it was undecided if the KateModern videos will appear on YouTube.