MSN, Endemol team up for original web series

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06 Nov 2008

MSN has teamed up with Endemol UK to launch Kirill (10×3′), an original sci-fi web drama that Microsoft is aiming to use to drive downloads of its Silverlight technology.

The shortform series is being coproduced for the web portal by Pure Grass, the UK prodco in which Endemol bought a 40% stake last March. Kirill is Pure Grass’s first major web project since Endemol’s investment. It is shot in HD, and features actor David Schofield (Gladiator, Pirates Of The Caribbean). The first episode of the series was soft-launched overnight last night, with the aim being for the project to spread virally over the next five weeks, with two episodes airing per week. The project will be accompanied by three or four original blogs. Talking to C21, Microsoft UK executive producer Peter Bale said the project has been “in the works for about six months,” after Endemol won a “beauty contest” for sci-fi themed pitches. “They were prepared to work with us in a way that was very stimulating and they were prepared to take a risk and be quite ambitious. The good thing is they, like us, want to experiment in this area – it’s been a good joined-up project between MSN, Microsoft and Endemol.” The project is being coordinated on Endemol UK’s side by Pasa Mustafa, head of digital studios, and Peter Cowley, MD of digital media. “It’s been in development for a long time while we’ve been talking to Peter and his team at MSN, which has allowed us to build a really good creative proposition in terms of both the drama and the medium,” Mustafa told C21. He added that the first 10 episodes will “almost act as a precursor” to a full first season. “Beyond that, there’s potential for gaming, TV series, films,” he said. “We have very high hopes for it.” The story, billed as “an environmental sci-fi drama,” revolves around Kirill, a scientist at the CERN research facility in Switzerland, who is attempting to warn the viewer of a pending disaster. His efforts are undermined by a large, shadowy corporation called Nomi. Different Microsoft divisions will be supporting the project in different ways. Xbox is onboard as sponsor and it is envisaged the project will be available in some form through Xbox’s on-demand service, Xbox Live, in future, while a range of wallpapers and themes will be made available for Windows Vista. While there are no plans yet for a TV version of the show, Bale does not rule out there being one in future, pointing out the project’s HD production values. “I think we’ve got to push boundaries a little bit to see what goes over with audiences because nobody has got this right yet.”

Adam Benzine 30 Oct 2008 © C21 Media 2008