Hollywood studio, Google forge new ground on Web

LOS ANGELES Tue Jul 1, 2008 6:33am BST

A Google sign is seen at its headquarters in Mountain View, California May 22, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

A Google sign is seen at its headquarters in Mountain View, California May 22, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A major Hollywood studio and online search engine Google Inc on unveiled separate moves on Monday to put movie and TV-like content on the Web, highlighting the way in which both see the Internet as critical to reaching customers.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, a unit of Sony Corp, said it plans to make the Will Smith action film "Hancock," which opens on Wednesday, available online to owners of the Web-connected Sony Bravia TV before the movie goes out on DVD.

In doing so, the studio is changing, albeit slightly, the traditional distribution chain of motion pictures. After their initial run in theaters, movies are typically released on pay-per-view television services, then via DVD, Internet downloads or streams, and finally on free broadcast TV.

In another high-profile initiative, Web search and advertising company Google has signed a deal with Seth MacFarlane, 34, creator of the Fox animated TV show "Family Guy," to produce short cartoons for the Web, said Google spokesman Daniel Rubin.

The cartoons will be paired with advertisements placed on targeted Web sites, and will also be available on the Google-owned video-sharing site YouTube.com, Rubin said.

MacFarlane is one of the highest-paid talents in TV after this year signing a deal reported to have been worth at least $100 million with 20th Century Fox TV, a unit of News Corp.

While the Internet has many players producing content exclusively for the Web, it has few creators with the production budget and pay scale MacFarlane is accustomed to.

Major entertainment companies have increasingly tried to expand into the Web in recent years. In 2005, News Corp bought U.S. social networking site MySpace.com for $580 million, and it has since rolled out different versions in other countries.

Last year, NBC Universal, which is operated by General Electric Co, teamed up with News Corp to found Hulu.com, a site that relies on advertising to bring users free episodes of their favorite shows on the Internet.

While relying on advertising to underwrite the cost of programming has worked on TV since its inception, the approach is still meeting with mixed results online.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte).