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June 10, 2010

Conversations With Teri Hatcher and Lisa Kudrow: Why They're on the Web

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Every year, the television networks hold "upfronts" where they trot out a lot of stars, showcase their upcoming new shows, and attempt to sell advertising for those shows. Since web TV shows have increasingly become the talk of the internet, it was only a matter of time before they had their own upfront. Or as Digitas, the digital marketing company calls it, a Digital Content NewFront.

Teri Hatcher, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Pollak, Seth Green, Martha Stewart, Arianna Huffington, Jason Bateman, Rick Fox and a host of internet gurus were at Digitas' third annual Digital Content NewFront in New York this week, talking about internet content and new media, promoting their web content, and connecting with advertisers.

Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher was there to talk about her newly launched website targeted to women, Get Hatched, A Chick's Guide to Life.

I had a chance to talk with Teri and asked her if she had any trepidation about breaking into the web:

When you believe in something and it comes from a place of passion and joy, that overrides fear. I think I probably felt scarier about joining the Desperate Housewives cast at the beginning, because you feel so many things are beyond your control and it isn't just about quality at the end of the day.

I feel like I've gotten to a place where if I'm giving my best to something that's all I can do. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out.  And that's not the reflection of who I am so there's less fear based thinking.

When I asked if she had any tidbits about what will be happening on Wisteria Lane this fall she said, "I got nothin' for ya! Other than that, we're looking forward to welcoming Vanessa Williams. I have no idea what she'll be doing other than being glamorous and probably causing mischief."

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Lisa Kudrow's internet series, Web Therapy, about a therapist who does quickie sessions by video chat, is in its third season. She told me she's excited about the freedom the internet provides:

Creatively there are no limits. On TV, they don't have the time for something different to see if an audience can find it and get used to it.

That unlimited creativity caught the attention of Showtime, which has picked up the series for the fall.

Actress Amy Brenneman was there, as were several other celebs, to pitch an idea for a new web series. Hers is called The Procrastinators. Brenneman even used a sampling of tweets from her followers about her idea as part of her pitch.

Comedian Kevin Pollak, who has an online chat show, feels the internet is a "creative nirvana." Pollak moderated the panel discussion that included Hatcher, Kudrow, Ben Silverman of Electus and Ricky Van Veen of College Humor.

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Pollak said that because actors have so much down time, they especially understand that if you're "not creating, you're waiting." The internet, he said, was the perfect place to have creative control and maintain ownership of your product.

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The woman in charge of the event was Stephanie Sarofian, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of The Third Act, the brand content unit of Digitas. She told me:
Marketing has become content-centric. It's not like the old branded entertainment world or the old upfront world. It starts with a deal but it ends with a really amazing experience that we've seen through the entire process.

Despite the upbeat attitude toward the potential of web content at DCNF, however, I spoke with one woman who said most of the celeb web shows were nothing more than "celebrity YouTube." This woman, who has worked in web marketing and production for years, agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity.

She called Kudrow's Web Therapy a sponsored "audition reel." She believes the real goal of the series was achieved: for Kudrow's concept to be picked up by a broadcast or cable network.

This woman also thinks the revenue model for web shows is "not sustainable," and though "some of these people will make money, the majority will not."

NEW YORK - JUNE 09: (L-R) Actors Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Pollak and Teri Hatcher attend the Digital Content Newfront Conference presented by Digitas & The Third Act at Skylight Studio on June 9, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Digitas)

If that turns out to be the case, it'll simply be part of the ongoing birthing pains of an industry that doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up.

Cross Posted from BlogHer

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