Hollywood struggles to find wealth on the Web

Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:14am EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After more than a decade of hype about the Internet being the next great stage for mass entertainment, it remains dominated by amateurs with most Hollywood stars watching from the wings.

Even as talent agencies like William Morris and television networks such as NBC push for more celebrities on websites and better quality programs, many actors and producers balk at Internet projects, saying they have meager revenue potential compared with TV and movies.

The future of Web entertainment is front and center in fractious labor contract talks between the Screen Actors Guild and Hollywood's major studios that, after a nearly eight-month stalemate, begin again on Tuesday.

Among major sticking points is a demand by SAG, the largest U.S. actors union representing some 120,000 actors, for payments when members' work goes online.

But the studios argue they are making too little money on the Web now, and its future as an entertainment medium is uncertain. Still, they are pushing ahead because they see an audience of teens and young adults -- consumers of the future -- who are more often online than in front of the TV.

"Digital media is really one of the great avenues of the future," actor and producer Ashton Kutcher told Reuters. Still, he noted that because of the uncertainty surrounding financial models, "I don't know that anybody, truly from an entertainment standpoint, is firing all guns at that arena."


Kutcher is one of the few trying. This month he unveiled a Web series called KatalystHQ on website Facebook.com. In under three minutes, the reality-style vignettes take viewers behind the scenes at his production company.   Continued...

<p>The Hollywood sign is seen on a hazy afternoon in Los Angeles, California, November 4, 2007. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>