Atom Entertainment to launch studio for web video shorts

MUMBAI: With people turning to the web as a source of entertainment, the Internet video pioneer Atom Entertainment is funding programming for the web through a new division AtomFilm Studios. This could be could be among the first of many new studios dedicated to the production of video for online audiences.

Atom Entertainment which runs a web site for pre-produced video shorts or clips from independent creators, plans to keep banking on those "atom-ized" projects. But with AtomFilms Studio, it will finance select projects, investing upfront in the production of original content designed for Internet-based delivery. 

Atom Entertainment. plans to invest "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in the initiative in 2006, with budgets per project expected to vary widely, said AtomFilms' founder and CEO Mika Salmi.

In an interview with CBS News Salmi said, "AtomFilm Studio is a development program for us to create content that will be on Internet, mobile and television. It will all be short-form content, so everything will be under five minutes."

"We believe in snack-sized content across all our brands," Salmi said. "We think this is what consumers want for broadband entertainment across various screens."

The development house already has six projects under production in the first quarter and as many as three dozen others planned for the studio's first year. The initial round includes a reality series based on Craigslist's Casual Encounters and a "stop-motion homage to old school videogames." 

These and future video endeavours will be published at the site and on its online and mobile entertainment partners. The scale and budgets of the projects is much smaller than what's standard in television production. 

Atom will not have a physical studio like Paramount or Warner Bros. in Hollywood because it plans to leave film production up to the creators. 

The launch of AtomFilms Studio comes as much larger companies enter the fray, investing in and distributing video over the Internet. Atom hopes this would give it a jump in the latest online video rush, which has attracted deep-pocketed rivals such as Yahoo Inc. and CBS Corp. 

Yahoo has already forged partnerships to webcast content from other media.It has also started to develop more in-house material. Television networks are also selling their shows online and making them available on mobile gadgets. CBS is producing a soap opera in three-minute chunks exclusively for use on cell phones and plans to run a "micro-series" drama that will be shown on both the TV network and cell phones in installments of a minute or less.

Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes store has sold sold more than 8 million videos since it secured a major licensing deal to sell TV content online last October.

"That kind of momentum, along with AtomFilms' success at notching about 5 million registered viewers and securing enough advertising revenue to operate profitably during the last three years, signals that the time is ripe to take Internet video to new levels, Salmi said to CBS News.

"At some point, the Internet, or broadband entertainment, will be the home base for anything related to video," Salmi added .

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