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MySpace co-creates scripted Web show

Times Staff Writer

Emboldened by the success of video series within its pages, MySpace is taking on the ownership role of a television network as it seeks a bigger piece of the action.

The top social networking site co-developed a new scripted serial, “Roommates,” that premieres today. The Web show -- about several underdressed young women who make ends meet by starring in a reality show about underdressed young women -- will air daily at Myspacetv.com and on new MySpace pages devoted to the subjects.

The News Corp. unit, based in Beverly Hills, is keeping editorial control of the show, which generally runs 3 minutes and is promoted by fictitious blogs and other MySpace elements. Regular production duties will be handled by Scott Zakarin’s Iron Sink Media.

“We are entering the creation business,” said Jeff Berman, general manager of MySpace TV. “There are certainly more to come. We’ll see how we do.”

MySpace can produce an entire season of a Web show for a fraction of the millions of dollars it takes to shoot one network TV pilot, Berman said. With Ford Motor Co. as a sponsor, MySpace might have already covered all of its costs; it wouldn’t say.

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The upside of ownership, on the other hand, is huge. Berman said shows that do well on MySpace could reach TV, with News Corp. getting the benefit. The company owns the Fox network.

“We’re increasingly becoming a digital playground for Hollywood, but we’re also a testing ground” for traditional entertainment programming, he said.

The online series “Prom Queen,” which drew millions of views on MySpace, is headed for DVD. “Gay Robot,” an Adam Sandler TV pilot that went nowhere before, took on new life on MySpace; an animated version is being developed for cable by Viacom Inc.'s Comedy Central.

Berman said MySpace had learned from what has and hasn’t worked. For example, it stretched the length of “Roommates” episodes because viewers thought the 90-second “Prom Queen” spots were too short.

MySpace also is playing up the interactive element. A MySpace polling system, developed for recent political debates, will let viewers vote on “whether Violet should break up with her boyfriend or quit her job or get in a fight with her roommate,” Berman said.

joseph.menn@latimes.com


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