Online destinations are vying for ad dollars this Upfront season, but they aren’t the only ones courting advertisers with web original programming. BET today announced its new slate of shows for its 2011 Upfront presentation tonight in New York City.
In addition to the Viacom-owned network’s staples – like the Hip Hop Awards and 106 and Park – BET is adding a handful of web sereis to its roster, many of which were created, written by, and star individuals who Tubefilter readers will find familiar. The shows include:
- Lenox Avenue – A dramatic web series that tells the story of three male friends in their mid-twenties, who are good dressers and busy navigating the rough terrain of love, relationships and careers. Set in Harlem, this series is produced by Al Thompson’s (Johnny B. Homeless, The Royal Tenenbaums) ValDean Entertainment and features Thompson as Owen and Dorian Missick (Lucky Nember Slevin) as Sellars. Michael K. Williams and Jamie Hector from HBO’s hit series The Wire and Vanessa Bell Calloway of The Closer to make guest appearances.
- Odessa – A Sci-Fi web series that follows a man and his young daughter, Odessa, who have been on the run for as long as they can remember from the clandestine college university science program that bestowed them with psychokinetic abilities. They must avoid the pursuers at all costs or be hunted down and used as living weapons.
- The Come Up – Equal parts drama and comedy, this series follows the lives of seven teens in Washington, D.C. as they actively pursue their dreams to make it as future music executives, doctors, lawyers, and superstar athletes. But first they have to make it through high school. Set at Silver Spring High School and the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, this show is driven by storylines that focus on the cast’s relationships with one other and the dilemmas they face on their path to adulthood.
Odessa is also a ValDean Entertainment production featuring Thompson, Skai Jackson (Arthur, Boardwalk Empire) as Odessa, Richard Herd (Star Trek), Fullvio Cecere (Battlestar Galactica), Mark Gantt (The Bannen Way), James DeBello (Cabin Fever), and Clayne Crawford (24). Brian Rolling is Thompson’s producing partner and Jorge Rivera (Rhyme Animal) is his writing partner on the series, while Angel Acevedo (We Need Girlfriends) also helped produce and Jesse Warren (The Bannen Way)and Alex Albrecht (Diggnation) are on board to direct a few episodes. (I told you there were going to be a lot of names you’d recognize!)
- Asylum – A thriller created by Dan Williams and directed by Scott Brown (Blue Movies) that follows a team of doctors as they diagnose and treat patients at the infamous St. Dympna hospital for the criminally insane. Along the way, we will discover intriguing secrets about the staff and learn more about the asylum’s mysterious past.
BET will distribute its web original programming across all BET digital platforms, including BET.com, BET Mobile, and BET on Demand, according to the press release.
“It’s an accomplishment for all the people doing great things in digital to be recognized and picked up by a network,” Al Thompson told me over the phone while on his way to the BET Upfronts. He added that what initially attracted BET to both his series was the quality of the productions. “I use great actors and very talented people in my digital projects,” said Thompson. “BET recognized and valued that.”
It’s the kind of quality that could easily translate into a television show, an opportunity Thompson is well aware of. “I’m keen on doing second seasons of these series, but TV is definitely a possibility down the road,. This could be an incubation period for the series, especially if BET wants to get into more dramas.” said Thompson.
Stay tuned for more news on the deals and when you can catch the BET originals online.