Fox Digital to Air Original Series on Myspace…Really

Taco Bell to sponsor show debuting this month

Fox Digital Studio will debut on March 28 a 7-episode original comedy series distributed exclusively through Myspace, and Taco Bell is partnering with the two companies as a sponsor with the brand heavily integrated into the program.

"Let's Big Happy" stars Angela Sarafyan as a music blogger who heads to LA and ends up serving as a guerrilla marketing savant for upstart bands. In a roughly 8-minute episode shown during a SXSWi panel on Tuesday, Sarafyan schemes for a lead singer to fakes his own death only to have him resurrected and playing his own funeral.

We Are Scientists, Chitty Bang and the Gay Blades are among the bands who appear on the show playing themselves. Rock star Andrew WK had initially been pegged to play one of those arcs but ended up scoring a regular stint playing himself and best friend to Sarafyan's character.

Steven Hein, vp of production at Fox Digital Studio, said that bands were chosen from a list of 100 acts participating in Taco Bell's "Feed the Beat" program, which supplies bands with free Taco Bell food while on tour. Bands were picked before the show's scripts were written, letting the bands play a role in the writing of each episode. Taco Bell has been running TV spots featuring the bands. Will Bortz, senior manager of brand partnerships and sponsorships at Taco Bell, said an ad starring Fake Problems generated a 700% increase in single song sales since debuting last Thursday.

"We figured Feed the Beat would be the perfect thing to anchor [Taco Bell's involvement in the series] because Taco Bell is that late-night destination, music is that late-night experience," Bortz said. Episodes will air live and be available on demand, but the companies haven't announced scheduling. The entire series was shot over the course of 11 days, Hein said. He said expanding the show to be distributed traditionally on TV or as a film is a possibility but that it would need to reconceived for the formats.

Future fodder aside, of real interest is the rebirth on Myspace as an online video distributor a la Hulu or YouTube. "The new Myspace, for lack of a better term, needs to do a bunch of things right," said Roger Mincheff, president of Myspace Entertainment. To that end Myspace is capitalizing on the root of its previous form's later success: music. As Facebook and Twitter grew to trounce Myspace as users' social networks of choice, the platform pivoted into a showcase for music artists. "If you look at Myspace and you look at the roster of [performers] who used it as a platform, Myspace really more than anything is a platform for discovery," Mincheff said. He said the combination of content and discovery serves as a "landmark for the new Myspace."

In addition to viewing episodes on Myspace, users will be able to interact with each other through chat streams tied to each episode. Supplementing the series, the companies launched a fictional blog on Tuesday that will post regularly through June or July in the voice of Sarafyan's character. Myspace previously worked with Fox Digital Studio and automaker Kia on the first original series to air on the platform, Wolfpack of Reseda, which debuted last month.

Myspace is getting heavy in the online video content distribution game. During the second quarter the site will launch Myspace TV, a product that will feature traditional TV content layered into a social experience. "Imagine watching a football game or a concert or even just a favorite sitcom, yet being able to interact, chat, engage with your friends and really make it a shared social media experience," Mincheff told Adweek.

Panasonic signed on as the offering's first brand partner with more expected to join.

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