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Col bids on syndie eBay

Magazine-style skein to focus on the stories behind eBay users

Stations will soon get to bid on a new syndicated strip based on eBay, the popular online auction site. Columbia TriStar Television Distribution and LMNO Prods. will partner to produce the series, which is set for a fall 2002 launch. Few details have been ironed out, but sources familiar with the project said it would take a magazine-style look at the stories behind eBay users and most likely be a half-hour.

The eBay series concept currently appears to be a cross between “Antiques Roadshow” and “Real People.” Project would focus on the people who connect and share their passions via eBay, and will also include a host, although producers are far from beginning a talent search.

The as-yet untitled project will also include an interactive component, although producers are just now hammering out what that might be. Local stations could, for example, sell items on eBay or even put those auctions on their own Web sites.

CTTD and LMNO are expected to announce the project this week and take it to stations shortly thereafter. No pilot has been shot, although producers expect to tape segments in the coming weeks. CTTD will most likely target the eBay strip at daytime or early fringe time periods.

Before making any major decisions on the project, the distributor is waiting to see what shakes down in the syndie market. Should some hourlong strips disappear, CTTD could always develop the eBay project as an hour offering.

TV ties in place

Ebay– which, along with LMNO, is repped by William Morris– has kicked around the idea of a television companion series for some time. The site has marketing partnerships at outlets including History Channel, Nick at Nite, Cartoon Network and ABC — which also had an eBay series in development at one point.

Not only is eBay one of the Internet’s few success stories (it’s shown a profit almost since launch), but it also elicits strong brand loyalty. The Web site, which launched Labor Day weekend in 1995, boasts 34 million registered users and holds regular sold-out “eBay University” educational seminars.

“EBay is the one great brand name that survived the dot-com world,” said one source familiar with the project.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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