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NBC brings Web series "Quarterlife" to TV network

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC on Friday said it will begin airing the highly touted Web series “Quarterlife” on its television network early next year, making the program the first to originate online and then move to a major U.S. broadcaster.

The deal with “Quarterlife” creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, Emmy-winning producers of shows “thirtysomething” and “My So-Called Life,” comes as a strike by screenwriters against Hollywood’s studios nears the end of a second week.

A key issue in the work stoppage is fees that writers want if shows and movies are downloaded or streamed from the Web. The major studios, which make many shows that air on TV networks, have so far refused to meet the writers’ demands.

Industry watchers have speculated the Web could prove a fertile ground for independent writers, directors, producers and others to post original content and try to win fans and prove program concepts if the strike endures.

“If there were more people with the (courage) of Marshall who are willing to bet on their own creative vision and finance themselves, then the (business) model becomes something they define,” said Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment.

“Quarterlife,” a drama telling of six young artists, began its run on MySpaceTV on November 11 and a new eight-minute “webisode” is posted each week. In all, 36 episodes are planned.

Herskovitz told Reuters the shows were written so that the brief Webisodes could combine to form one-hour TV episodes, and NBC will do exactly that. The show is expected to begin on NBC in February or March after completing its run on the Web.

STRIKE NOT AN ISSUE

For now, the deal calls for NBC to air the episodes that have already been written.

Herskovitz -- a member of the Writers Guild of America, which represents screenwriters -- said the WGA has determined that independently made Web shows are not subject to the strike. But if NBC wanted more episodes, that could be a serious issue.

“If we get a pickup for more episodes during the strike, we have every expectation we will be able to work out a deal so we could continue writing,” Herskovitz said.

A WGA spokesman had no immediate comment, saying the Guild was currently checking into the matter.

Silverman noted the agreement came together well before the WGA members went on strike. “(The strike) was not a motivation for this,” Silverman said.

He declined to give financial details, but did say NBC is now a partner in “Quarterlife.” It paid for the right to air the show on U.S. TV, internationally, on DVD and the Web.

Herskovitz and Zwick continue to own the show and maintain creative control.

Along with airing on MySpaceTV, each “Quarterlife” episode is posted on the program’s own Web site, www.quarterlife.com, where the producers are building a community of fans.

Herskovitz said user traffic to the site has been “really fantastic,” but he declined to give specific numbers.

In recent years, networks have grown concerned about losing viewers to the Web, and Silverman said he saw this deal as a way to reach potential audiences on the Internet and on TV.

NBC is a unit of General Electric Co.

Reuters/Nielsen

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