As a writers strike based on Internet issues rages on, NBC has decided to bring the Internet-based series “Quarterlife” to television.
Peacock has pacted with creator-producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick to air six hourlong episodes of the angsty twentysomething show as early as this spring. Segs will be created from the 36 eight-minute episodes that have been running online at MySpace and Quarterlife.com since Nov. 11.
In addition to airing “Quarterlife” on NBC, the Peacock will stream the skein at NBC.com and become a distribution partner, helping with DVD and foreign sales.
NBC is purchasing the second window on the show, since episodes won’t bow on the broadcast net until after the series completes its Myspace run early next year.
Herskovitz and Zwick will hold onto full ownership of “Quarterlife,” which they’ve been self-financing via deals with advertisers and private investors. Content of the show is expected to remain the same, with some language cleaned up to meet NBC’s on-air standards.
NBC U entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman first expressed an interest in “Quarterlife” last March, when he was still an indie producer. “When they showed me the pilot of the Internet series, I knew it was something special,” Silverman said.
Once he arrived at the Peacock, the exec quickly sought to get involved with the project.
Silverman’s first move was to strike a quiet deal making NBC U an investor in the social networking website linked to the show. That deal gave the Peacock right of first refusal among networks should the show ever move to TV.
“There was no assurance we’d ever go to television,” Herskovitz said, noting that he insisted on two key deal points: full creative control and complete ownership.
After screening two hourlong epsiodes of “Quarterlife” a few weeks ago, NBC began talks to pick up the show. Neither party is discussing the license fee for the show, but one thing is clear: The Peacock is getting a bargain.
NBC is paying a lower license fee than for any network show on the air, Herskovitz said, adding that NBC U didn’t have to pay for development costs or incur production deficits via its inhouse studio.
Herskovitz and Zwick have been deficit-financing “Quarterlife” themselves, and despite the sale to NBC, Herskovitz said he and his partner still haven’t fully recouped their investment. He seems confident the project will ultimately make money, however.
“We’re trying to create a new model and prove you can independently produce and finance good content on the Internet,” he said.
“Quarterlife” was produced using WGA and SAG talent, along with talent tied to other guilds. Producers will begin conversations with the guilds about how to compensate those staffers now that the show has made the leap to TV.
First season of the show was produced before the strike. If a second season is greenlit — and the strike is still going on — Herskovitz and Zwick have told the WGA that as indie producers, they’re prepared to hammer out a contract giving the WGA the sorts of Internet and DVD residuals the guild has been seeking from the studios that are part of the AMPTP.
“This serves the Writers Guild more than the companies,” Herskovitz said.
“Quarterlife” was first developed and produced as an hourlong TV pilot for Touchstone Television and ABC three years ago.
“We did the pilot but we weren’t satisfied with how it came out,” Herskovitz said. “There was a conceptual problem.”
Alphabet execs agreed and declined to pick up the project to series. Producers went back to the drawing board, but by the time they came up with a new concept, ABC had moved on.
“They had a lot of concerns that it would be too close to ‘What About Brian,’ ” Herskovitz said, referring to the ABC drama that lasted two seasons.
Touchstone passed on redeveloping the project as an Internet series, but in a generous move, the company (now known as ABC Studios) agreed to give the rights back to Herskovitz and Zwick. Herskovitz said ABC Studios retains a small stake in “Quarterlife.”
Herskovitz and Zwick are best known for TV skeins “thirtysomething” and “My So-Called Life,” as well as features “Blood Diamond,” “Traffic” and “Legends of the Fall.”