In a multimillion dollar deal announced today, Michael Eisner’s three year-old web studio Vuguru just landed a major investor and distribution partner in Canadian-owned Rogers Media. For Rogers, it means a multi-year exclusive on Canadian rights to Vuguru properties on all platforms including web, TV and mobile.
Known for being an earlier pioneer of professionally produced web series like Prom Queen, The All-For-Nots, Foreign Body, and Back on Topps, the studio had been relatively quiet after a busy first two years. The only active series so far this year were a second season of Back on Topps and the shot but still unreleased third installment in the Prom Queen franchise, Prom Queen: Homecoming.
As part of the deal, the web studio is being spun out into its own stand-alone entity, with Eisner serving as its Chairman. Vuguru was previously a division of Eisner’s privately-owned Tornante Company, the same investment company that purchased Topps trading cards in 2007.
“This deal not only solidifies Vuguru’s position as a leader in the new media landscape, but it also allows us to stay true to our creative and business philosophy of owning and distributing high-quality, story-driven content,” said Eisner.
Most notably, the new financing means we’ll be seeing a lot more from the Vuguru camp in the next year, as they announced a plan to produce as many as 30 original web productions a year, starting with about a dozen in 2010.
“By dramatically increasing the volume of content the company releases on an annual basis, Vuguru will become a go-to content partner for brands looking to reach & entertain online audiences, distribution partners looking to program premium content, and content creators looking to innovate,” Vuguru’s Director of Distribution & Marketing Ryan Barlow told us. He went on to add that they company will be pursuing similar international distribution deals in the same vein as Rogers in the next few years.
There’s still no official date set for the Big Fantastic created Prom Queen: Homecoming, though signs are pointing to a late 2009 release. Previous versions did well on the international markets, even scoring over $2.5 million in format rights and ad deals from the Japanese spin-off Tokyo Prom Queen. This of course doubly impressive in that the country doesn’t actually have a ‘prom’ in the US sense of the word.
“Vuguru’s strategy going forward is the same strategy that attracted Rogers in the first place—own and distribute high-quality, story-driven content.” said Andy Redman, Tornante’s Chief Operating Officer. Next up on the development docket: The Booth at the End, a psychological thriller series from RPG gaming writer Christopher Kubasik and directed by TV vet Jessica Landaw. Also planned is a young adult novel adaptation called Pretty Tough, from TV Brothers & Sisters writer-producer Liz Tigelaar.