Ben Silverman's Electus unveils shows, one for MTV
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. television executive Ben Silverman, who left struggling network NBC in July, has unveiled a slate of programs for his new TV and digital media company, including a telenovela that will air on MTV.
The company, Electus, trumpeted programs such as "Munch Madness" and "Big Time Spender" at the MIPTV conference in France on Friday, and followed those shows' announcement by saying on Monday it had agreed to develop an "interactive" telenovela called "Pedro & Maria" for youth-oriented MTV.
"Pedro & Maria" is billed as a bilingual, modern-day Romeo & Juliet in which audience members can suggest plot twists and story direction using websites like Facebook or Twitter.
Silverman, 39, aims to merge old-style TV shows with new media technology in a way that draws younger viewers to programs and allows advertisers to reach potential customers via the Web, computers and mobile phones.
In the past decade, many executives and companies have tried similar combinations with varying degrees of success. Some industry watchers claim that one barrier is old-media executives unwilling to experiment.
But Silverman has made new media a cornerstone of shows he helped develop, such as "The Biggest Loser" and "The Office."
"I'm into bringing the walls down, not putting barriers up," he told Reuters.
U.S. consumer products maker Procter & Gamble Co has signed on to develop creative and other content for "Pedro & Maria" in a move similar to the roots of TV when companies routinely sponsored daytime "soap operas" and other programs.
Procter & Gamble Productions will work with Electus and MTV to promote their products with the show.
Silverman said specific promotions that producers and advertisers might use on the Web or on cell phones would develop around audience habits as shows aired.
He likened the strategy to a work in progress, but said partnering producers like those on "Pedro & Maria" -- it will be executive produced by "Ugly Betty" actress America Ferrera -- with companies such as Procter & Gamble, MTV and its own parent IAC, brought "best-in-class" players together.
"Timing is everything, and we're doing it for the appropriate (audience) with the appropriate partners in an appropriate way," he said.
(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)
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