Case Study

NBC Universal Attempts 'Gemini' Shot

Rosario Dawson Stars in Original Web Series

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The Creators: Brent Friedman, creator and executive producer of the Web series "Gemini Division," produced by digital media studio Electric Farm Entertainment, in association with NBC Universal Digital Studio and Sony Pictures International Television Entertainment. Mr. Friedman and his co-founders at Electric Farm Entertainment also created the Web series "Afterworld" that ran last year on various Web sites including, MySpace, and YouTube. Mr. Friedman has worked in film, TV and video games as a writer and producer for 15 years. That included a stint writing and producing for "Star Trek: Enterprise."


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The Distributors: The 50-episode "Gemini Division" stars Rosario Dawson and is backed by NBC Universal's Digital Studio. The show will launch on, and on Aug. 18. It also will be available on mobile phones and gaming systems, such as the Xbox, and via video-on-demand from cable operators Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon FiOS. In addition, the show will be offered through Amazon Unbox, said Cameron Death, VP of NBC Universal Digital Studio. The program will not be offered on iTunes. Mr. Death said that he expects to ink additional deals with broadband portals to carry the show, which will air each weekday, with longer recap episodes running on Fridays.

The Content: Set five minutes in the future, the series stars Ms. Dawson as a New York City vice cop on a trip in Paris. After her fiancée proposes, she learns that he isn't who she thought he was, leading her into an investigation of a vast global conspiracy. Each episode will last three to five minutes and will contain a unique story arc. The Web series, which mixes animation and live-action, is one of the first projects from NBC's recently formed digital studio.

Backstory: Mr. Friedman said he originally conceived the show years ago as a possible TV project that would be set in Europe. Logistical problems hampered those plans, he said. But when Ms. Dawson voiced a character on "Afterworld" last year, Mr. Friedman and his partners at Electric Farm Entertainment reached out to her about collaborating on another digital project. Mr. Friedman developed "Gemini Division" with a male lead but when Ms. Dawson became interested in the show, Mr. Friedman changed the script and the storyline to include a female lead character. Having a celebrity attached to the show was important to NBC, Mr. Death said. "From a studio standpoint it gives us instant credibility and recognition to differentiate against what I call 'two guys in a garage.' When I look at us as a network we are about A-list talent, high-end production and the ability to create a safe place for brands to play. Having Rosario Dawson attached makes that an easier conversation to have," he said.

The Sponsors: The show's advertisers include Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Acura and UPS. Those marketers will advertise with pre-roll ads in some cases and will also be integrated into the storyline—Ms. Dawson's character drives an Acura, for instance. As such, "Gemini Division" is likely to be an important litmus test for the success or failure of branded entertainment on the Web. The early brand involvement from the get-go helped finance the production, Mr. Death said. "We won't greenlight until we have brands lined up who want to be in the show," he said. He declined to disclose if the show was profitable at the outset.

Endgame: Mr. Friedman said his goal is simple: For the show's audience to grow over its 50 episodes. "At the end of 50 episodes we hope people are clamoring for more 'Gemini Division.'" He'd also like to explore if the show can translate to a comic book, video game or some other media.