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UTA signs deal with Karmaloop

Agency looks to tie in with verge culture

With Hollywood increasingly looking for ways to reach younger audiences, United Talent Agency has decided to place a bet on so-called verge culture.

The tenpercentery has inked a deal to rep, as well as invest in, Karmaloop, an online streetwear company that has created a business around 18- to 34-year-old shoppers who actively use the Internet, smartphones and social media services like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

That demo has been referred to as verge culture, given that their interests intersect music, fashion, art and entertainment, making them a very sought-after group of consumers.

UTA will particularly focus on helping launch and promote Karmaloop TV, an HD cable channel, overseen by former AMC Networks prexy and Lionsgate TV exec Kate McEnroe; the companies hope to launch the net sometime next year. Talks are under way with cablers to lock down carriage over the next three to four months, as well as with content creators to develop programming for the channel.

Plans for the network were first introduced in May at the cable industry’s annual confab. A lineup of films will initially make up 70% of Karmaloop TV’s programming, while the website’s shows will be enhanced for airing on the channel.

Launch is backed in part by Insight Venture Partners, a $4 billion venture capital fund.

Boston-based Karmaloop has been streaming a lineup of entertainment on its website for the past two years; shows include newser “The Daily Loop,” the “Wife Swap”-like “Poseur!” and “Cut n’ Sew,” the site’s take on “Project Runway” with a streetwear twist.

Some of the projects have featured musicians Kanye West, M.I.A., Gwen Stefani and Kid Cudi, street artist Shepard Fairey and helmer Danny Boyle.

This month, the company paired up with Skee.TV, which will provide online advertising support and content from such artists as Snoop Dogg, the Game, Ice Cube and Travis Barker.

“It will be the place for the youth culture that is excited by music and fashion and design to go and see content and hear about and see what’s happening in that space,” said UTA partner Jeremy Zimmer.

Karmaloop also is getting ready to launch the social-networking site Junglelife.com for its growing community.

Greg Selkoe, CEO of Karmaloop, said he’s pleased with UTA’s willingness to carry the company’s “vision and banner into boardrooms of Hollywood and corporate America.”

UTA declined to disclose just how much it has invested in Karmaloop.

Investing in clients isn’t unusual, however, with more agencies, especially in the advertising world, opting to acquire a stake in companies they help grow, rather than collect a straight service fee.

The youth market has also become a genuine biz for tenpercenteries, with Creative Artists Agency, in particular, having turned the demo into a revenue stream through its Intelligence Group marketing division.

Karmaloop’s Web biz is expected to generate $100 million in retail sales this year, up 67% over last year, from streetwear clothing and other merchandise.

Visitors to the site have grown to more than 4 million unique visitors per month over the past decade.

The demo Karmaloop targets spends $90 billion annually on entertainment, technology, sneakers and travel.

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