Krystian Woznicki on 29 Nov 2000 13:43:39 -0000

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[rohrpost] Zombie College

Wednesday, November 29, 2000, Fox Sign TV Deal

In a first, network would make a pilot based on web sitcom 'Zombie College' 
but deal comes amid layoffs at the dot-com.

By GREG MILLER, Times Staff Writer

The online series "Zombie College" takes place at a school where most 
students are partially decomposed zombies.
Internet entertainment site said Tuesday that it has sold one of 
its online series to Fox Broadcasting Co., marking the first time a show 
created for the Net has been purchased by a major television network.
But even as Icebox announced the deal, the company laid off about 50 of its 
100 employees Tuesday, underscoring the ongoing financial pressures in the 
online entertainment space.

"We consider [the Fox deal] a big victory because it reinforces everything 
that we're doing," said Steve Stanford, chief executive of Icebox. But he 
added that the company is also striving to cut costs amid mounting pressure 
on online companies to show profits.
"We built the business in the free-spending days of the Internet," said 
Stanford, who founded the company a year ago. "We're going to sustain it in 
a climate that doesn't allow that at all."

Given that environment, the deal with Fox is a breakthrough for Icebox, a 
Los Angeles-based company founded last year by TV indusry veterans who saw 
an opportunity to use the Web as an incubator for TV programming.
Under terms of the deal, Fox has commissioned a script for a sitcom pilot 
based on "Zombie College," which debuted on the Icebox Web site in March. 
The show is animated online, but Fox's plans would develop a live-action 
Icebox, a privately held company, won't see any significant revenue unless 
the show beats significant odds and is picked up as a series. If that 
happens, Icebox could collect millions of dollars in production fees and 
Neither party would discuss financial terms, but Icebox would probably be 
paid about $20,000 per episode to co-produce the show, and would own 10% to 
15% of any ancillary revenue from syndication and other sources.

Earlier this year, Icebox licensed another show idea, "Starship Regulars," 
to the Showtime network, but that deal happened before the show had ever 
aired online. "Zombie College" was developed exclusively for the Net, 
Stanford said, and its loyal online following helped cement the deal with 
Fox. Stanford said his firm is close to signing television and feature-film 
deals on four other shows.
Analysts saw the Fox deal as an optimistic sign, but also said it 
reinforces the view that Internet entertainment companies have to continue 
to search for other sources of revenue beyond online advertising.
"Icebox realized early on that television is where the money is right now 
and will be for a long time," said Mark Mooradian, a senior analyst at 
Jupiter Research. "Getting a TV pilot is not tantamount to financial 
salvation. But if a pilot gets picked up and goes into syndication, you can 
finance Internet ventures from now until the next millennium."
"Zombie College" is aimed at the heart of Icebox's audience: college 
students with high-speed Internet connections and copious leisure time. The 
3-minute episodes center on the adventures of Scott, a stubble-chinned 
freshman struggling to adapt to the peculiar social life at a college where 
most students are partially decomposed zombies.
The series was conceived by Eric Kaplan, a 33-year-old TV writer who also 
writes and produces for the Fox animated series "Futurama." "Zombie 
College" has been one of the most popular of the 22 shows on the 
site, with more than 4 million viewings to date.

The deal comes at a time of significant turmoil for online entertainment 
companies, which were darlings of the investment community a year ago, but 
for whom funding has evaporated in recent months amid doubts about their 
prospects for profitability., a company started by Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, among 
others, was scrapped in September before the site even launched. Digital 
Entertainment Network, a company that once filed for a rich stock offering, 
was forced into bankruptcy this summer.
"All the investors we talk to have read about Pop and DEN and the others 
and are terrified about investing," said Stanford, who acknowledged his 
company needs to find new funding if it is to continue past March. "The 
question we're asked over and over is, 'How is the company going to become 
profitable?' "
Stanford said Icebox plans to cut costs by turning to outside firms for 
production work. The layoffs announced Tuesday involved about 50 staff 
members who used to do much of that work in-house. Stanford said the 
company does not plan to curtail the number of shows it is developing.

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