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Pop still bubbling

Katzenberg says Netco may be resurrected

HOLLYWOOD — Don’t sign the death certificate yet. Pop.com may still have a heartbeat.

Nearly three weeks after the Netco from DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment flatlined, Jeffrey Katzenberg said he will return to working online, and even plans to resurrect the “Pop” moniker.

“We have some things we like,” said Katzenberg, referring to Pop’s content, “and we plan to go back to it.”

The DreamWorks co-topper spoke to 610 attorneys and other media professionals at the 46th annual Entertainment Law Institute on “Representing the Client in the Multimedia World,” held at USC.

“Why was I invited here?” Katzenberg quipped in speech. “Because of my amazing success recently in the Internet world? I don’t think so.”

Formidable challenge

Katzenberg said that in light of Napster and MP3, the entertainment industry faces “a formidable challenge to see through the chaos and the confusion” in order to “ensure that the business part of show business actually remains a business.” And that, he said, comes down to the “evolution, execution and protection of the creative process.”

After his speech, Katzenberg answered questions from the audience.

When asked what lessons he learned from Pop, Katzenberg quoted country crooner Kenny Rogers: “You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.”

Katzenberg said that three months before the site’s launch, he sat with Pop’s principals to review business plans. They realized that running the site would cost $30 million-$35 million. But even with advertising, sponsorship and Pop’s invention of specially crafted “i-mercials,” the site’s projected revenue was only $8 million-$10 million a year.

“We realized that either our idea was flawed, our ambition was too great, or we’re too ahead of the market,” said Katzenberg.

He said they spent $7 million on the site, which was scheduled to launch Sept. 18.

Another attendee wanted to know what Katzenberg thought about other Netcasters’ chances for success if DreamWorks and Imagine couldn’t make a Web site work.

Katzenberg said that companies “at the birth of any industry” have to overcome obstacles; he made comparisons to the cable business and said he expects similar growth for online entertainment.

Despite a dismal September, with many dot-coms closing doors and dismissing staffers, he doesn’t think “that people should be looking for a tombstone for the Internet yet.”

People may be equally presumptuous in writing Pop’s epitaph as well.

Countingdown to rebirth?

According to Katzenberg, Pop currently resides under “the Countingdown.com umbrella.” Observers had speculated that Countingdown, the movie fan site that Pop acquired during the summer, would take over its entertainment Netcasting efforts (Daily Variety, July 10).

DreamWorks had already used the site to showcase projects, including the opening sequence for its animated feature “Chicken Run.”

Users who type in Pop’s URL are currently connected to Countingdown.

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