Producer enters pact with Metacafe

Steven Bochco is getting into the viral video business.

Producer has entered into a strategic alliance with Metacafe, a YouTube-like video-sharing site that tries to cut through the user-generated clutter by paying producers based on the popularity of their content. Under the deal, Bochco will create a variety of content for Metacafe, including a Bochco-branded online channel.

First project for the site has already started production, with an eye on an early-2007 bow. Neither Bochco nor Metacafe would discuss details, except to say the initial offering would be unscripted and encourage audience participation.

Metacafe, which calls itself the world’s largest indie video-sharing site, attracted 3.7 million visitors last month, according to CNN.com.

Bochco, whose credits range from “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue” to last season’s “Commander in Chief,” becomes one of the first “old-guard” scripted TV producers to enter into a production alliance with a video-sharing service. A number of reality TV producers, including Mark Burnett and Ben Silverman, are already well-established on the Net.

While the deal with Metacafe is new, Bochco said he’s been interested in expanding to the Net for at least a decade. He even met with Microsoft officials during the height of the original dot-com boom.

Bochco said the key to success on the Net will be creating content that takes into account the unique nature of the medium.

In the past, “People were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole,” he said. “They were trying to impose our old entertainment model on their new platform. You’re looking at a vastly different medium.”

But while the shape of Bochco’s content might change, the producer said his core job remains the same.

“It’s still sitting around a campfire telling stories,” he said. “It’s just a different campfire.”

Metacafe CEO Arik Czerniak said snagging Bochco will help his service differentiate itself from the larger YouTube.

“We’ve got a lot of general content deals in the pipeline, but this is the first time we’re talking to a serious creator like Bochco,” he said. “We’re building a business around licensing content.”

Czerniak said the key to Metacafe’s expansion will be its recently launched Producer Rewards program, in which the site pays content suppliers $100 for every 20,000 page views. Just a few weeks after its debut, some producers have earned as much as $25,000 for their videos.

Neither Metacafe nor Bochco would talk about the financial aspects of their agreement, but it seems logical to assume Bochco and his company stand to make more coin if they drive more eyeballs to videos.

Czerniak said Metacafe, through Producer Rewards and a site-specific video rating system, wants to make it easier for users to quickly find high-quality content. As the novelty of YouTube fades, he predicts auds will tire of sifting through a dozen videos of laughing babies before they find something compelling.

“We want to inspire creators to come to us and start taking (online video) seriously,” he said. “Five years from now, I can assure you Bochco is only going to be the first of many producers online.”

While Bochco’s first effort for Metacafe will be unscripted, he said he can imagine coming up with scripted videos as well. He also doesn’t rule out collaborations with other writers and producers who work with him at Steven Bochco Prods.

“I would hope that if what we’re attempting to do captures an audience with any enthusiasm, that’ll give us the opportunity to use the channel to expand what we do,” Bochco said. “I have all kinds of ideas I’d like to implement, some of which are different ways of doing fiction, others of which aren’t. It’s a fun medium to try to figure out.”

Bochco remains based at Touchstone for TV production.

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