Orange Project Implores: Don’t Call Them DEN

Online props to traditional media is firm's 'golden egg,' prexy says

Although the Orange Project (www.theorangeproject.com) bills itself as a “digital studio and entertainment network” that creates television-style shows to air initially on the Internet, they are careful to distance themselves from the defunct Digital Entertainment Network.

“DEN was building properties for the Web as if it was their final destination,” says Daniel Stein, the Orange Project’s cofounder and prexy. “They built the company on an advertising revenue model. We want to use the Web as a point of leverage to get our properties into traditional media. The golden egg of our revenue model is licensing upstream.”

Making money selling online properties to traditional media may sound like the mumbling of a madman, but Hollywood is slowly looking to its cyberstepson for relatively inexpensive and innovative ideas that have some proven appeal with online auds. In the past few months, four Internet projects have been sold to be made into cable shows and feature films: Urban Entertainment’s “Undercover Brother,” Stan Lee’s “7th Portal,” Icebox’s “Starship Regulars” and Mediatrip’s “Lil’ Pimp.”

The San Francisco-based Orange Project, which bowed this month, sees what used to be an anomaly and as a sound way of doing business. “You have a really low profit ceiling if you’re looking only at the Web for your only revenue model,” says Stein, a former general manager at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope. “We want to a model that sells on the Internet and the real world as well.”

Although the site plans to pursue advertising deals, selling shows off-line is the primary plan for generating greenbacks.

Currently, the Orange Project offers programs that range from L.A.-based soap opera “The Oaks” to the animated ’80s angst in “Suburban Pop” to sci-fi thriller “Pufferfish.” Unlike DEN, the company plans to create programs that appeal across the board instead of targeting a specific niche.

Their production methods span the spectrum as well — Flash, Shockwave, and QuickTime. “We want to do anything that’s digital entertainment,” says Stein. The company will also add original programming from horror helmer George Romero by year’s end.

Their five- to six-minute Webisodes, updated on a weekly basis, cost around $15,000 each, which is substantially less than DEN’s rumored $100,000-per-episode tab. The company is running off its seed money, but expects its first round of financing to arrive at any moment.

“DEN was trying to build an equivalent to a TV network on the Internet,” says Stein. “We plan to create properties that have a much longer life.”

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