05:19 AM

3.12.07 Eisner dives into Web TV

In Wired 1.01, Nicholas Negroponte dismissed the push to HDTV with this pithy lede:

When you look at television, ask yourself: What's wrong with it? Picture resolution? Of course not. What's wrong is the programming.

That was 1993. These days, the programming is clearly better, thanks to HBO and a few other cable networks.

There's still plenty wrong with Web video, but YouTube has solved one big chunk - sharing and redistribution. But despite a few breakout hits like the Mentos guys and Lonelygirl, the programming mostly consists of stuff lifted from TV, hence the deep concerns over copyright. With Google in charge of YouTube, copyright owners are concerned Google will be only too happy to wrap advertising around their content investments. (There's also the problem of getting the stuff off the computer and onto the TV.)

Enter Michael Eisner, who is forming Vuguru, a development company for direct-to-Web programming, USA Today reports.

Vuguru also today will unveil its first show: a serialized mystery called Prom Queen that will roll out over 80 days beginning April 2 with daily installments lasting 90 seconds. It's co-produced with production company Big Fantastic, in a deal brokered by United Talent Agency.

"There's a new distribution platform that's going to be ubiquitous, and that's clearly broadband," Eisner says. While sites that feature user-generated video, such as YouTube, "won the short-term sprint" to reach audiences, he says, "Winning the marathon will be professionally produced, emotionally driven story content."

Check Vuguru.com and promqueen.tv to tune in. One look at the preview and you realize this looks a LOT more like cable television than YouTube.

90-second programming? Might be hard to distinguish from advertising. Indeed, the show has lined up product placements from Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful juices and Teleflora florists. On the Web, 90 seconds is plenty of time to tell a story, says writer-director Chris McCaleb of Big Fantastic.

"When you're sitting there (at the PC), it's like dog years," McCaleb says. "There are so many options. So everyone really has 90 seconds."

With the potential to get paid more than AdSense bucks, Eisner expects creatives to beat a path to his door.

"When this show goes on, we'll be inundated with ideas," he says. "We won't have to look for them. They'll be looking for us."