Eisner strikes internet TV deal

Michael Eisner, the former Walt Disney chief executive, is taking Hollywood into the world of internet television after brokering a deal to create an online channel with one of the entertainment industry’s leading talent agencies.

The deal was struck between Veoh, the internet TV operator in which Mr Eisner holds a significant stake, and United Talent Agency, which represents actors such as Johnny Depp, Ben Stiller and Harrison Ford.

The channel, which will be supported by advertising, will showcase new talent in an effort to discover the next Hollywood star. It will be open and available to all Veoh users to submit, view and share content.

The project also brings Hollywood together with the amateur film-making talent producing online video on user-generated content websites such as Google’s YouTube.

The deal was negotiated by Mr Eisner and Jerry Zimmer, a board member of UTA.

Mr Eisner is familiar with the inner workings of the entertainment industry, having led Disney for 20 years before being replaced by Bob Iger.

Since leaving the group in 2005 Mr Eisner has invested in Team Baby Entertainment, which produces sports-related DVDs for infants and has deals with the Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and Nascar. He has also presented his own chat show, Conversations with Michael Eisner, on CNBC.

However, following the sharp growth in online video sites, his work with Veoh is his most high-profile investment, giving him the opportunity to put his knowledge of Hollywood to work.

Dimitry Shapiro, chief executive of Veoh, said the deal with UTA would become “the new gateway for talent discovery in Hollywood”, adding the channel would bring the “newest and brightest creative minds to the new, more flexible medium of internet TV”.

Brent Weinstein, the head of digital media at UTA, said the partnership would “create a structured, standardised and legally sound mechanism for aggregating and reviewing unsolicited submissions in a peer-to-peer video environment that can support the high resolution, television-quality content that many aspiring artists produce”.

In an unusual move, UTA has bucked the industry trend of discouraging unsolicited material from aspirant actors, writers and directors and instead has actively encouraged people to submit material to the site. The group recently formed a broadband division and has already received thousands of submissions.

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