LOS ANGELES -- In an example of how Internet companies and the entertainment industry may collaborate in the future, a short animated series on a Web site will become a half-hour, live-action show on a major cable network.
Showtime Networks Inc. has licensed "Starship Regulars," a comedy series on the Web site Icebox.com. The show, which will debut on the Web Aug. 11, will be turned into 13 live-action episodes for the cable network's 2001 season.
Icebox.com will become executive producer of the show and will receive a portion of the revenue generated by the program. The show's creator is Rob LaZebnick, one of Icebox.com's co-founders. LaZebnick serves as a co-producer of the Fox Television series "The Simpsons" and will also be co-producer of the Showtime version of "Starship Regulars."
Using the Web as an incubator for ideas that later become television shows or motion pictures is a strategy being pursued as an alternative to creating "destination" sites that showcase original programming. Many of the high-profile Web sites, such as the Digital Entertainment Network, Warner Bros.' Entertaindom and Pop.com, have either folded or retrenched after discovering that producing original programs solely for the Internet doesn't pay.
Instead, sites such as MediaTrip.com are forming close relationships with studios, which would rather spend thousands of dollars on inexpensive "Webisodes" in the hopes of finding a hit than millions on unsuccessful television pilots or films.
Unlike some Web sites, which solicit short films and animation from novices, Icebox.com from the start sought to sign established writers such as Larry David, who created "Seinfeld," and Jonathan Katz, who created "Dr Katz: Professional Therapist."
The Web site debuted in June and soon after was approached by executives from Showtime, who wanted to preview all the series Icebox.com had planned, according to Icebox.com chief executive Steve Stanford.
"Starship Regulars" is a comedy about rank-and-file crew members aboard a military spaceship. The Web version will consist of 15 three-minute episodes.
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