Jane Hu


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Appointment viewing came to the internet last summer, thanks to Jane Hu. That's no easy task given that internet entertainment's calling card is that you don't have to tune in at 9 p.m. on Thursday night to watch.

Ms. Hu got around that by relying on a well-tested traditional media strategy: windows.

Ms. Hu, 27, heads up the business side of Vuguru, the new-media studio of Tornante Co., founded by Michael Eisner in 2005. That makes her the former Disney CEO's right-hand woman.

In that role, Ms. Hu shepherded the production and distribution of the breakout web hit "Prom Queen." The 80-episode show launched last summer and, along with a sequel, generated more than 15 million views online during its two-and-a-half-month run and another 5 million since then.

The windowing strategy played a large part in drawing the audience. Each episode premiered on MySpace during a 12-hour window before it appeared on such sites as YouTube, Veoh, Vuguru and even its home site, promqueen.tv. As a result, 65% of "Prom Queen" views were on MySpace.

The 12-hour window likely drove the high percentage of views on MySpace, Ms. Hu says. The tactic also encouraged MySpace to promote the content more, which led to more views of "Prom Queen," to the benefit of its advertisers.

Even with minuscule production costs compared with traditional TV, very few web-video producers are making money. But the "Prom Queen" franchise was profitable thanks to Ms. Hu's and Mr. Eisner's ability to land big advertisers such as New Line Cinema's "Hairspray," Teleflora, Pom Wonderful, Fiji Water and Verizon Wireless' V Cast.

Vuguru also struck international licensing deals for the series in France and Japan, marking one of the first times the format for an internet series had been sold internationally.

This strategic business sense helps Vuguru stay ahead. "The ad industry right now has not completely understood for web video what we are trying to do, so it does take a lot of different sources of revenue added together to monetize effectively," says Ms. Hu, who came to Tornante from a corporate-strategy job at Walt Disney Co.

Success also requires moving fast. "Our productions move incredibly quickly, so Jane has been moving just as quickly to secure deals with advertisers and sponsors," says Chris McCaleb, co-creator of "Prom Queen." "Jane is a part of a new generation of entertainment executives."

For the rest of this year, Ms. Hu is focused on ramping up Vuguru's production slate. It plans to launch three to four additional web series this year. Vuguru last month premiered "Foreign Body," a web series that serves as a prequel to the Robin Cook book of the same name that will be released in August. Vuguru secured Honda as a sponsor.
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