(Adds detail about “Quarterlife”)
By Kenneth Li
NEW YORK, April 10 (Reuters) - A company founded by Rupert Murdoch’s daughter will help News Corp’s NWSa.N MySpace distribute Web shows on television and DVDs outside the United States, as the world’s largest social network seeks an audience away from the computer.
The move is a play to make shows such as MySpaceTV’s “Quarterlife” or “Roommates” available outside of the United States, or create localized versions of the shows, said Travis Katz, managing director of MySpace’s international arm.
The partnership with ShineReveille, the distribution arm of Elisabeth Murdoch-founded Shine Group, is one of News Corp’s most ambitious plays to underscore MySpace as a media platform, distinguishing itself from fast-moving rival Facebook.
“Partnering with ShineReveille empowers us to export MySpaceTV content to local TV networks globally — something we’ve never been able to in the past,” Katz said in a phone interview.
Just last week, MySpace announced a deal with three big music companies to start an online music service, seen as a rival to Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) popular digital entertainment service iTunes.
Its latest deal comes amid a broad rethinking of the way shows make it onto TV. A prolonged U.S. writers strike forced big media companies to reconsider the time-honored tradition of paying for expensive pilots only to reject many of them.
General Electric Co’s (GE.N) NBC Universal has gone as far as to say it aims largely to avoid the development of pilots.
MySpace’s deal also raises questions on the potential for Web-developed shows on TV. When “Quarterlife,” a show about young adults that originally aired on MySpace, made it to NBC television, the show’s ratings tanked. The TV version combined more than thirty short videos into six hour-long episodes.
Despite 5.5 million views on MySpace, its NBC broadcast drew 3.1 million viewers, placing it last among the big U.S. TV networks in its time-slot.
Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said big media companies have spent years trying to use the Web as a content laboratory, but few, if any, have been successful so far.
“It hasn’t produced bankable shows outside of the Internet, or even on the Internet,” McQuivey said. “If you look at it (Web shows), there’s a good reason why — it’s mostly bad.”
Yet Katz said the migration of Web content to TV was a work in progress that may forge a new model for show production.
The Shine deal, in which the companies will share licensing revenue, gives new generations of budding producers a global platform. “You’re (producers) not just stopping with MySpace,” Katz said. “You’re tapping into a much broader audience.”
MySpace’s first UK-programming co-production deal is with legendary British horror film imprint Hammer Films. “Beyond the Rave,” a feature-length film about vampires and dance music, will air on MySpaceTV on April 17 in four- to five-minute installments.
Shine, renowned for making hit versions of local programs in other regions, brought British comedy “The Office” to the United States. It purchased in February TV production company Reveille, founded by NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman.
MySpace will retain all Internet rights for its programs globally and all media rights in the United States. (Editing by Braden Reddall)