Family Guy Creator Leads TV's Migration To Internet
By Richard Koman
June 30, 2008 1:54PM
Seth MacFarlane, creator of TV's Family Guy, will create an animation show for Google that will bring in ad revenue by distribution across the Internet. Called Set MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy, the MacFarlane-Google deal portends a new model for entertainment that cuts out Hollywood and the TV networks.
In a move that should send "cold chills down the necks of broadcast network executives," Google will unveil this fall an Internet-only animation show from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.
The new program, to be released in September, is called Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy, and it will appear exclusively on the Internet. But it won't be exclusive to Google. Rather, the search giant will exploit its AdSense advertising network to distribute MacFarlane's work across thousands of Web sites that attract the kinds of audiences likely to be interested in the show -- in a word, young audiences.
"The Internet is on track to become the dominant way video will eventually be distributed, and with it will come the ability for content Relevant Products/Services creators like Mr. MacFarlane to take his shows directly to the customer and reap the benefits directly, without sharing any of his profits with traditional broadcasters," said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Creative Strategies, in an e-mail.
Cutting Hollywood Out
Unlike previous Internet efforts to enter the entertainment business -- notably former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel's many agreements with Hollywood studios -- Google's deal cuts out the movie studios and television networks that have to date controlled top-quality content.
By going directly to a creative leader with an established reputation and a built-in audience comfortable with computers, Google is defining a future of entertainment that doesn't include the age-old "suits," producers and moneymen. Entertainment Hollywood-style could be replaced by Silicon Valley project managers.
The New York Times reports that the MacFarlane program will run as 50 two-minute episodes (possibly the optimum viewing time for the Internet), supported by a range of advertising formats, including "preroll" ads that run before the program, banner ads and text messages. MacFarlane describes the episodes as "animated versions of the one-frame cartoons you might see in The New Yorker, only edgier."
MacFarlane will get a cut of the advertising revenue, as well as the ability to animate online commercials for substantial fees. The show is unique in Internet circles because it will be produced with a million-dollar budget -- not the typical six-figure budgets for Internet programming. That's possible because of the involvement of Media Rights Capital, a production company with the ability to invest $400 million a year in content production.
"We believe the revenue could be formidable," Karl Austen, a lawyer who worked on the deal, told the Times. "What is exciting is that this is a way to monetize the Internet immediately. Instead of creating a Web site and hoping Seth's fans find it, we are going to push the content to where people are already at."
Another benefit for MacFarlane: Internet programming is not governed by the Federal Communications Commission, which has strictly penalized broadcasters in recent years. MacFarlane told the Times that the public wants more raunchy humor and television networks are being stymied by the "taste police."
"I just felt I could be a lot more honest on the Internet," he said.
Given that younger users are increasingly online, that the Net is free from FCC oversight, and that Google's model charges advertisers only when their messages are viewed, "PCs and digital set-top boxes will become the front end for delivering interactive media of all types to the living room," Bajarin said. "Companies like Google are bound to become the major networks of this new century."