The Disney-ABC Television Group announced today the highly anticipated launch of Stage 9 Digital Media. Focused on creating original short-form programming by merging innovative creativity with superior production quality, the studio’s experimental new media content premieres with the comedy series “Squeegees” in a co-exclusive premiere on ABC.com and YouTube on February 28, 2008. The series’ initial run will be sponsored by Toyota.
“An integral part of our overall digital strategy, Stage 9 was created to bridge the gap between user-generated content and traditional production, and is a perfect example of how we are continually looking at innovative methods to develop, produce, market and distribute the high-quality programming that consumers demand,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney-ABC Television Group. “By partnering with extremely talented creative individuals and producing in a variety of genres, Stage 9 has the ability and positioning to put experimental new media content on the map.”
Barry Jossen, an Academy Award-winning short-form producer and studio executive, has been tapped as general manager of Stage 9. The studio has an active slate of more than 20 programs in comedy, drama, animation and reality ranging from traditional linear episodic storytelling to fully immersive interactive content geared toward the trend-setting A18-34 demographic. Working with emerging talent from the online community, Stage 9 is squarely focused on content creation, smartly distributing its programming through top broadband video sites, online social networks, mobile, and download services in order to maximize user accessibility and exposure. Additionally, the studio will collaborate with the company’s Disney-ABC International Television on global digital distribution of its content.
“While the new media space is loaded with UGC, we feel the audience is missing the quality experience found in other forms of exhibition, and we are answering their need,” said Jossen. “This creative frontier gives us the opportunity to develop new franchises, discover and develop talent and, most importantly, expand the standard of excellence set by our parent company in creating superior episodic programming with great stories and production values.” Jossen, who continues his role as executive vice president of ABC Studios, overseeing production, has produced both award-winning films and television series, and received his Academy Award for the Live Action Short Film, “Dear Diary.”
“Digital media has leveled the playing field, opening doors for anyone to have immediate and unlimited access to an audience,” said Mark Pedowitz, president, ABC Studios, who has oversight of the new Stage 9 Digital Media Studio. “But content must evolve with the platform. Stage 9 gives us the freedom to experiment with creativity and innovation, while pioneering state-of-the-art business models in this exciting new market.”
Beginning today, the studio’s first release, “Squeegees,” is available exclusively on ABC.com and YouTube, with its initial run sponsored by Toyota. “We are so grateful about how this partnership has evolved. From the very beginning the folks at ABC.com, YouTube and Toyota have collaborated to make ‘Squeegees’ and its launch a special event in this dynamic industry,” said Jossen. “For YouTube, their expansion into original professional content further establishes their reputation as the leading online video community. We cannot thank Toyota enough for its confidence in the potential of original content. Finally, ABC.com continues its visionary efforts in expanding its brand on-line.”
“By partnering with popular YouTube content creators, Stage 9 is developing a new model that will change online video production as we know it,” said Jordan Hoffner, head of premium content partnerships for YouTube. “To have a storied company like Disney-ABC make new content for the YouTube community is quite groundbreaking and reflective of their unwavering imagination and YouTube’s position as the home for quality professional video.”
“For the launch of the all-new Corolla, comedy is a major strategic pillar to engage young, ambitious buyers. The high quality, fresh online content of ‘Squeegees’ is a terrific fit,” said Kim McCullough, corporate manager of marketing communications for Toyota.
“Squeegees” comes from the brilliant minds of the comedy team Handsome Donkey, dubbed “Online Auteurs” by the NY Times. “Squeegees” is a character-driven ensemble comedy about entrepreneurial slackers and their fledging window washing business. New “Squeegees” episodes will debut every Monday and Friday on both sites. “Squeegees” was created, executive produced and stars Handsome Donkey principals Adam Countee, Brendan Countee, Marc Gilbar and Aaron Greenberg.
“Working with Stage 9 on ‘Squeegees’ was an awesome experience,” said Handsome Donkey. “They gave us creative control, abundant resources and a lovely gift basket filled with exotic jams and biscuits.”
The studio’s roll out of new short-form programming will continue with “Voicemail 2,” the second season of ABC.com’s first original series inspired by one man’s decade-long collection of phone messages. The never-before-seen humorous snippets capture an uncanny insight into the life of a 20-something male slacker in pursuit of happiness… with no responsibility. “Voicemail 2” is executive produced by Angela Mancuso.
Also slated to debut this spring is the original science fiction action thriller “Trenches,” from Shane Felux, the critically-acclaimed filmmaker and creator of “Pitching George Lucas” and “Star Wars Revelations,” which became online sensations. Set in another time, on another planet, “Trenches” begins in the waning days of a grueling war. A botched rescue attempt forces a young soldier and his unit to team up with their enemy to survive a brutal threat and escape the planet.
Stage 9 is part of Disney-ABC Television Group, a division of The Walt Disney Company. This venture is part of the Disney-ABC Television Group’s overall digital media, multiplatform business initiative and demonstrates the Group’s ongoing commitment to launching new digital products and working with strategic partners in the digital media space to make its high-quality, informative and entertaining content available to consumers whenever and wherever they choose.
YouTube is the world’s largest online video community allowing millions of people to discover, watch and share originally created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube is based in San Bruno, CA and is a subsidiary of Google, Inc.
About Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
Toyota established operations in the United States in 1957 and currently operates ten manufacturing plants, including one under construction. There are more than 1,400 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealerships in the U.S. which sell more than two million vehicles a year. Toyota directly employs more than 32,000 people in the U.S. and its investment here is currently valued at more than $13 billion, including sales and manufacturing operations, research and development, financial services and design.