Feb 13 "Desperate Housewives" alum Eva
Longoria's new project won't bring her back to ABC, or any
traditional U.S. television network. The actress will produce
and lend her voice to "Mother Up!," a 13-episode adult animated
comedy available in the U.S. this fall only on the online video
Longoria, Kevin Spacey, John Goodman and other top Hollywood
actors are being wooed by the growing number of Silicon Valley
companies rushing to get a foothold in consumers' living rooms
with exclusive shows that feature big names and hefty budgets.
As video streaming technology makes watching videos on
laptops and mobile devices as easy as flicking on a TV set,
Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc's YouTube, Yahoo
and Microsoft Corp are setting up shop in Hollywood to
produce or license their own series.
Their models are pay TV channels like HBO and Showtime that
built their subscriber rolls by creating shows like HBO's
"Sopranos" or Showtime's "Homeland" that a TV viewer couldn't
get anywhere else.
"Content creators think they've hit the lottery," said
Bernard Gershon, head of digital consultancy Gershon Media and a
former Walt Disney Co executive. "Those companies are
throwing a lot of dollars for content they can use to create a
With 33 million global subscribers to its streaming service,
Netflix can afford to plunk down what analysts estimate
was up to $100 million for the rights to "House of Cards," a
slickly produced political drama starring two-time Oscar winner
Spacey and produced by "The Social Network" film director David
Upcoming only-on-Netflix series include the revival of
one-time Fox comedy "Arrested Development" starring Will Arnett,
and murder mystery "Hemlock Grove," directed by horror movie
producer Eli Roth.
On Tuesday, the Los Gatos, California-based company
announced the December release of its first original children's
series, a show based on DreamWorks Animation's coming
summer movie "Turbo" about a fast-moving snail.
The companies have different business models -- Amazon,
Netflix and Microsoft have subscription services, YouTube sells
advertising, while Intel Corp and Apple Inc
may introduce cable-like services that offer channels online.
But they all sense an opening as consumers increasingly
chafe at their mounting cable and satellite TV bills. A small,
but increasing, number are starting to "cut the cord," or drop
their service, say analysts.
"We may be sowing the seeds of our own destruction," Charlie
Ergen, chairman of satellite operator Dish Network Corp
, said at the AllThingsD "Dive into Media" conference on
Feb. 12. "A lot of people can live with Netflix and be perfectly
Netflix has won fans in Hollywood by giving writers and
directors a "high level of autonomy as well as an increasingly
global distribution platform," Morgan Stanley analyst Scott
Devitt said in a note to clients.
"There is plenty of room for multiple producers and
licensors of original content," Devitt added.
Amazon.com's Prime subscription, which combines a video
streaming service with free shipping for products it sells
online, stepped up its Hollywood dealmaking in the last month
with pacts to be the exclusive online home for popular PBS drama
"Downton Abbey" and upcoming CBS show "Under the Dome," a series
based on a Stephen King novel.
The Seattle-based company, seen by some analysts as
Netflix's biggest threat, said last month it plans to air 11
original pilot episodes before deciding which to produce as
One of the pilots, "Alpha House," follows four senators who
live together in a rented house. "Roseanne" and "Argo" actor
John Goodman will star, according to a person close to the
Overall, Amazon Studios has 48 movie and TV shows in
development, an Amazon spokeswoman said.
Hulu, owned by media giants Disney, News Corp and
Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal, is beefing up its own
original and exclusive content for its free, ad-supported
service and its monthly subscription plan. Hulu already has
distributed than two dozen exclusive or original shows,
including Morgan Spurlock documentary series "A Day in the
Upcoming Hulu programs include Longoria's "Mother Up!" about
a former music executive navigating life as a suburban mom.
Microsoft, which offers services such as Netflix on its XBox
video game console, intends to produce its own content later
this year for its 40 million subscribers, said Nancy Tellem, a
former CBS entertainment president who joined Microsoft last
year to run its fledging Hollywood production studio.
"We're not as constrained as other content creators," Tellem
said at the AllThingsD conference. "We can produce something
that's 10 minutes or an hour."
The XBox's benefit, Tellem said, is its interactivity. To
generate added revenue, the service can sell tickets to concerts
by stars of its comedies, or copies of the clothes worn by stars
on red carpet events.
Deep-pocketed Apple Inc could also step into the
entertainment production game. Industry insiders continue to
believe that Apple intends to unveil a TV-based device that has
the potential to shake up the television content and
distribution industry the way the iPod and iPhone disrupted
music and mobile content.
Sources say Apple, which already sells a $99 set top box
called Apple TV that streams Netflix and other content, has
opened discussions with providers, though its progress with the
cozy club of Hollywood producers and distributors is unknown.
Chip maker Intel plans to launch an Internet
television service this year with live and on-demand content,
said Erik Huggers, vice president and general manager of Intel
Media, who said he is negotiating with content providers.
The Silicon Valley newcomers may be taking aim at siphoning
off cable subscribers, but executives at Time Warner's
HBO premium service, don't seem particularly worried.
"Hulu and Amazon will be just another 200 hours on top of
the 145,000 hours that are already available to the consumer,"
said HBO president Eric Kessler. "What matters is that our
content is exclusive. If you want 'Game of Thrones,' there is
only one place you can get it."