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AntEye TV/film site makes a bow

Company fans out across country to discover talent

Matti Leshem, the USA Broadcasting exec who launched Barry Diller’s experimental WAMI-TV station in Miami, is bowing AntEye.com today. Site plans to fund TV pilots with budgets of up to $100,000 and short digital films with $250,000 for distribution across all mediums.

But there’s a twist.

Using a grassroots campaign to generate content, the Los Angeles-based company is using six RVs stationed in Austin, Texas; Atlanta; Kansas City; Madison, Wis.; Seattle; and Toronto to reach out to undiscovered talent (and generate submissions) at college and high school campuses, bookstores, coffeehouses and clubs.

The vehicles have been converted into mobile digital studios that will enable creators of new shows or films to work with AntEye staffers and conceptualize, shoot and edit content.

Additional RVs may also travel to New York and Los Angeles, but Leshem said that may not be necessary.

“You get a different attitude from people outside of Hollywood and New York,” he said. “They’re not as jaded and are excited to have their work looked at.”

Its goal is to become a leading supplier of original content to the Internet, television, cable and film markets, with viewers determining which shows make the move offline. Site will have to duke it out with similar offerings from dot-coms Eveo and iCast.

“AntEye is dedicated to discovering the vast potential of breakthrough talent that exists all across America,” Leshem said. “We are committed to unearthing the next ‘Blair Witch’ or ‘South Park.’ ”

Content will initially be distributed through channels on AntEye that cover every genre, including action, animation, comedy, documentary, drama, music and sports.

On April 15, one creator in each market will be awarded $100,000 to be used to produce a pilot backed by the AntEye digital production team. Should it be sold to a TV production company or network, revenues will be split between the creator and AntEye.

“No one knows what’s going to be a hit,” Leshem said. “But if you create it and let viewers decide before shopping it to the networks, you at least have a built-in audience on your side.”

Site plans to generate revs from the sale of pilots offline; advertising and sponsorships, licensing, production or syndication fees in the television market; rights or production fees in the film market; and merchandising.

Scott Smith, former prexy of Digital On-Demand and RedDotNet, founded AntEye with Steven Starr, former motion picture division head at the William Morris Agency.

Other execs include former CollegeClub.com and Ticketmaster-Online CitySearch exec Rachel Tubman, who serves as VP of artists & repertoire; Geoffrey Springer, veep of interactive production, formerly with Warner Bros. Online; VP of production Mark Binke, who helped create Columbia TriStar’s “Battle Dome”; and Paula Hoppe, director of content and community, who worked at Time Warner’s Entertaindom.com.

Company is backed via an undisclosed round of venture capital funding from Neveric and Hawk Holdings, a financing arm of Qwest.

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