EQAL, the digital entertainment start-up behind the lonelygirl15 phenomenon, announced a deal today with M.A.D. Entertainment of Milan to develop a version of the serial online drama for Italian Internet users. It's the first foreign-language version of the show, now it its third season online. EQAL will co-produce the show (due out late this year) but will rely on M.A.D. Entertainment to line up Italian distribution and advertising partners. The announcement comes less than a month after EQAL landed a partnership with CBS to build interactive experiences online to complement selected TV shows.
The new version of lonelygirl will have different characters and plots, but will follow the same strategic path as the original, founders Miles Beckett and Greg Goodfried said in an interview Wednesday in New York. The goal remains to make the short video episodes the heart of a social network where fans interact with the shows -- not in a "choose your own adventure" sense, Beckett said, but in chat rooms and other settings that blur the line between the characters and real viewers.
EQAL's first two serials (lonelygirl15 and KateModern) have built audiences large enough to attract advertisers, whose products have been integrated into the story lines. Product placement has its detractors, but Beckett said there are practical reasons for EQAL to go that route. Long pre-rolls are unpopular, those shown after a video have very little value, and EQAL's videos are too short to support interstitials, he said. The company also found that the tactic supported the illusion it was trying to create of real people communicating through videos. After all, Goodfried said, real people are more likely to be holding a Pepsi than a can of generic soda.
lonelygirl15 photo courtesy of the lg15 website.