Next-gen teen sites hone in on the animation hook

One promising up-and-comer is, a site for teen girls that's banking on celebrity appeal to drum up interest for its end of April launch. The on-line outfit has signed on Friends icon Jennifer Aniston to produce and star in a...
March 1, 2000

One promising up-and-comer is, a site for teen girls that’s banking on celebrity appeal to drum up interest for its end of April launch. The on-line outfit has signed on Friends icon Jennifer Aniston to produce and star in a 13-ep live-action talk show featuring famous guest stars. Also on the slate is an animated parody by Maxine Lapiduss, who worked on female-centric comedy series Roseanne and Ellen. Her new project, S*!t Happens, pokes fun at WB teen hit Dawson’s Creek and features characters like a girl who’s perpetually seven months pregnant and an asexual. A live-action real-life series created by the producers of MTV’s Real World is in the works, along with a music show called Noise, a game show and an interactive series about sex and dating.

Voxxy president and co-founder Kristi Kaylor says the site will rise above other teen sites like DEN or Oxygen’s new teen offering, which launched last month, by staying one step ahead in the convergence game. Voxxy will eventually function as a digital cable network, and Kaylor says that’s why the site will contain mostly streamed programming with minimal text content. ‘It’s not going to be Teen magazine stuck on a screen, with the do’s and dont’s of dating.’

Kaylor says Voxxy’s all-female celebrity hook and the spending power of the teen girl demo have advertisers knocking at the door with some pretty innovative on-site concepts. For the S*!t Happens series, for example, a cosmetics company has signed on to do an animated ad within the series featuring three characters who work behind a makeup counter.

Animation is also a new focus for, a four-month-old teen site that’s honing in on males ages 16 to 20. iFUSE partnered with L.A.’s Gifted Men Productions of to develop and distribute a weekly animated series called Adventure Men starting in February. The series of two- to three-minute episodes follows the space adventures of three teen guys who use high-tech gizmos and ‘supreme emotional purity’ to protect the world from evil. Six episodes are currently on the slate, with an option to do a total of 40 should the series prove to be a hit.

The ad-driven site already carries teen-driven music, sports and fashion-based content, including sound and video clips, but Adventure Men marks its first foray into streaming animation. Michael Dowling, co-CEO and co-founder, says getting into Web toons now makes sense because computer technology is able to support more complex streaming images, and because flash animation has become relatively inexpensive.

One of the most content-heavy animation sites currently offered for the young adult set is Film Roman’s Launched in November, it features not one, but 13 different channels containing two- or three-minute clips of animation for 17- to 28-year-olds, including a twisted Pokémon parody called Parkémon: The First Short. Animated by Chris Crosby, who has a daily Web strip called Superiosity, the toon uses South Park-esque humor to make make fun of the animé series.

The amount of toon fare on the site is ambitious. Out of 700 shorts submitted to Level13 as possibilities, 120 have already been acquired, says Film Roman COO William Shpall, who also heads up the new site. He adds that the development slate is definitely focused on nurturing long-term Web property potential. Level13 is really two businesses, Shpall explains-one which operates like a television network for the distribution of animated fare, the other a licensing and merchandising business for the underlying intellectual properties. He is especially hopeful about the direct-to-video possibilities for the Level13 programs.

Promotions for the site have been very grassroots, aiming for the college crowd with free stickers and 50,000 teaser CD-ROMs. Deals for exposure on Web browsers and search engines are in the works, but Film Roman is initially steering clear of doing a traditional ad push in print and TV.

Although Level13 has garnered modest hits (between 20,000 and 25,000 a month) so far, Shpall says page views are a more telling indicator of stickiness. The site is averaging between eight to 12 page views per visit, meaning people are spending time checking out channels. ‘We tried to build a site where once caught, you wouldn’t go,’ he says. Although Shpall expects the site to be banner ad-driven, he hopes revenue will also come from e-commerce. Early last month, an e-commerce ‘vending machine’ was created for featuring Level13 branded merch. Shpall also hopes the site’s toons will, in time, begin living their own licensing lives.

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