| NEW YORK
NEW YORK An investment firm run by former Walt
Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner has launched a studio
that will produce and distribute videos for the Internet,
portable media devices and cellphones, as Hollywood strives to
reach tech-savvy viewers online.
The studio, Vuguru, has signed for its first project, "Prom
Queen," a scripted 80-episode mystery consisting of 90-second
instalments described as "a blend of love, gossip, and
betrayal" during the final two weeks of high school.
"Prom Queen" debuts on April 2 and will be available at
Vuguru's site PromQueen.tv, online magazine Ellegirl.com and
It will also be available on Veoh Networks, co-financed by
Eisner's investment company Tornante Co.
"The entire concept here is content is king," Eisner said
in a phone interview. "What will drive traffic is interest in
the subject matter."
Eisner's new studio is part of Hollywood's courting of
Internet businesses, which they see as fertile ground for new
viewers unreachable by traditional outlets like television.
Since leaving Disney in 2005, Eisner has carved out a new
career as an investor in Internet and media businesses,
including the purchase of start-up media business Team Baby
Entertainment, which produces sports-themed DVDs for kids.
Eisner's firm also announced in March it would buy Topps,
maker of baseball trading cards and Bazooka gum, in an
estimated $385 million (199 million pound) deal.
He did not disclose the firm's financial commitment to
Vuguru but said it would be 100 percent backed by Tornante.
"This is not making 'Pirates of the Caribbean,'" Eisner
quipped, referring to Disney's estimated $140 million feature
film budget for the box office blockbuster movie.
Eisner, who helped define modern filmmaking and
merchandising during a 21-year reign at Disney, now aims to do
the same online.
Vuguru, which will focus primarily on producing original
programming online, plans to play with the format, which he
believes is still at an early stage.
The studio's next project will feature videos that are five
minutes in length and it is working on another project with
"There will be experimentation," he said. "Unlike
traditional media outlets, this is pretty open."
Eisner did not rule out one day offering full-length
feature films through Vuguru.
What's missing? Viewers will not be able to upload their
own videos to Vuguru, a feature which made Google's YouTube the
Internet's top online video site.
Tornante will be producing "Prom Queen" with independent
production team Big Fantastic. The deal was brokered by United
Talent Agency's online division.