'Deal' producer pacts with site for TV gameshow

“Deal or No Deal” producer Endemol USA has pacted with online video site Metacafe to launch what the two companies are touting as the first TV-style gameshow produced directly for the ‘Net.

Dubbed “Buzzed,” the show will use bar and club patrons as contestants in a game of trivia in which they’ll collect coin for each right answer. In a twist on the “lifelines” offered by “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” contestants will be able to “drunk dial” a friend for help.

Metacafe is expected to show one or two new episodes per week, starting in the spring. Segs will run just a couple minutes in length, keeping with the short-form nature of most Metacafe videos; there will be some interactive elements as well.

Endemol and Metacafe did not release financial details, but it’s expected Endemol will produce between 20 and 30 episodes of the show for the initial batch of segs.

Pre-production has already begun, including a search for a host. Skein will bow this spring.

For Endemol, “Buzzed” is part of the production giant’s plans to use the ‘Net as an incubator for new formats.

“The holy grail for us would be starting a show on the Internet and then packaging it internationally on TV,” said Jon Vlassopulos, senior VP of digital media and branded entertainment for Endemol USA.

Exec said Endemol USA will likely edit several of the webisodes into half-hour segs suitable for broadcast overseas.

Metacafe, which began life as a user-generated video site, has been looking to beef up its original programming. Last year, it pacted with Steven Bochco Prods. for the straight-to-Web series “Cafe Confidential.”

“This is part of our transformation from user-generated to shortform,” Metacafe CEO Erick Hachenburg told Daily Variety, calling “Buzzed” the “beginning of what we hope is a long relationship” with Endemol.

Metacafe has paid out more than $1 million in what it calls “producer rewards” — payments it makes to users who create popular videos. Now, the company is “starting to talk to producers on an individual basis,” Hachenburg said.

The WGA strike has only intensified those conversations, he said.

“The strike has lots of implications across the board,” Hachenburg said. “There are more people coming to the Internet faster because television is less entertaining.” Exec said the deal for “Buzzed” came about due to Metacafe’s search for content and Endemol’s desire to find a site with a large enough audience base to make producing for the Web viable for a company Endemol’s size. Metacafe says it attracts more than 28 million unique monthly visitors.

Endemol produced a pilot of “Buzzed” for Metacafe and has been working with the site to shape the creative direction of the series.

“It’ll be an irreverent show, one where everyone gets their five seconds (of fame),” Vlassopulos said, adding that the show will have a latenight-TV feel to it, borrowing some of the vibe of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segs.

Endemol has made several other content deals with Internet companies in the past year, including AOL and Break.com.

Metacafe and Endemol will work together to find advertising and sponsorship opportunities for “Buzzed,” splitting revenues from such deals.

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