"Family Guy" creator makes bold move online

Wed Jul 9, 2008 1:47am EDT
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By Andrew Wallenstein

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When September rolls around, the most anticipated new program of the fall season will be on the Internet instead of television.

That's when "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane will release exclusively via Google a series of 50 two-minute animated vignettes.

Given how outrageous "Family" is in the humor department, there's reason enough to watch MacFarlane's next creation. But if you think his ribald jokes are audacious, that's nothing compared to the distribution strategy for this program, titled "Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy."

Not since NBC's ill-fated series "quarterlife" has this much hype visited a bridging of the PC-TV divide, only this time it's warranted. For once, talent and technology are coming together at equally high levels.

But "Cavalcade" is still something of a risky prospect, and there already are a few red flags worth noting.

"Cavalcade" will be presented online through the Internet giant's AdSense network, which can syndicate video content to advertising slots on thousands of Web sites targeted to reach specific demographics. Each two-minute episode will have advertising embedded in several different formats ranging from preroll to "sponsored by" styles increasingly common online. Click on an episode, and the revenue is split among MacFarlane, Google, the host site and Media Rights Capital (MRC), which brokered the deal.

The very fact that Google has a deal with MacFarlane at all seems strange considering that News Corp., which happens to own Google rival MySpace, announced a gargantuan $100 million deal with MacFarlane in May to keep him at 20th Century Fox, making him the richest series creator in television.

You would think that kind of dough would be enough to give Fox the de rigueur "first look" option on any intellectual property MacFarlane generates. Given that this Google deal has been brewing for almost a year, how could it not have been a factor in negotiations with Fox?   Continued...

<p>Actor and producer Seth MacFarlane arrives at the first annual Spike television's "Guys Choice" awards show in the Studio City area of Los Angeles June 9, 2007. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas</p>