The producers of the uber-popular video series this summer will launch "KateModern," starring a teenage university student living in London as she struggles to "balance her complex social life with the dark forces that shadow her."
The program will first be available in July on Bebo (the MySpace of Europe) in the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and will be available to U.S. viewers later on LG15.com and other sites. It will also have ad support, including product integration and advertising.
Each of the characters will have Bebo profiles and blogs on the site and users will be able to influence the story by posting their own videos and comments. The creators of the show have built interactive moments into the storyline and will launch an alternative reality game, much like the one that sprung up with Lonelygirl15.
Miles Beckett, co-producer of Lonelygirl15, acknowledged the company could have tried to launch a spinoff on its own, but said there was strength to tapping an existing audience.
"There are two components to a show: the creative content and the audience," he said. "Bebo has a fantastic user base. They also have the technological tool set in place to tell our story." Then he added: The reality of Lonelygirl is we didn't do it on our own, we did it on YouTube."
Lonelygirl15 launched on YouTube 11 months ago and has become the site's most-subscribed to channel, with more than 91,000 subscribers and almost 10.2 million views. Including off-YouTube views, the creators say Lonelygirl15 has been viewed 50 million times.
Plight of Bree
Lonelygirl15 follows the daily plight of Bree, assumed to be a cute 15-year-old home-schooled girl with strict, religious parents who regularly broadcasts videos from her bedroom. In September it was exposed that a pair of amateur filmmakers were behind Lonelygirl15 and that Bree was actually an actress named Jessica Rose who graduated from New York Film Academy.
A core group of fans stayed tuned, however, as the storyline revolved around Bree's strange religion and the cult her parents belonged to, The Order. Recently, Bree has traveled to places such as Las Vegas and Mexico with her friends Daniel (an early character) and Jonas.
Bebo, Mr. Beckett said, is "taking the universe we're creating, which involves this secret society, along the lines of 'Buffy' or 'Star Wars,' and telling other stories within that universe along those same lines."
Bebo's president-international, Joanna Shields, met with the Lonelygirl15 creators in Los Angeles in January. "I had followed their success when she was at YouTube and I had written them into my speeches," she said. "It's that one-to-one relationship that a video blog represents that makes it work."
Moving away from CPM model
Bebo has just recently established a direct-agency team in the U.K., charged with creating sponsorships and other forms of advertising that move away from a cost-per-thousand-viewers model, Ms. Shields said. She envisions the Lonelygirl15 project as showing advertisers the "potential of new programming and the ways brands can interact with the audience."
The original Lonelygirl15 saw users creating their own storylines and characters that lived within the fictional universe. In "KateModern," a puzzle might come up in a video, a character will talk about it and fans will be called upon to solve that. If fans solve it, they'll get recognition in the videos. If not, the characters will solve it.