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Shaftesbury brings online content creation in-house with Smokebomb

At a time when developing web content to complement a new series has gone beyond a value-add for broadcast sales to a must-have, Toronto, Canada's Shaftesbury Films has taken the extra step of acquiring an established multiplatform digital content firm. Also based in Toronto, Smokebomb Entertainment and its two partners moved into the prodco's digs this summer, joining Shaftesbury's team of more than 35 people.
October 1, 2008

At a time when developing web content to complement a new series has gone beyond a value-add for broadcast sales to a must-have, Toronto, Canada’s Shaftesbury Films has taken the extra step of acquiring an established multiplatform digital content firm. Also based in Toronto, Smokebomb Entertainment and its two partners moved into the prodco’s digs this summer, joining Shaftesbury’s team of more than 35 people.

Smokebomb’s Daniel Dales and Jarrett Sherman impressed execs with their online work for Shaftesbury’s Life with Derek in 2007, which included creating a single-player game and 39 podcasts for Family Channel’s site that garnered 300,000 views during the run of the season. In fact, Shaftesbury brass were so pleased, they snatched up the company itself rather than hiring and training another web specialist.

‘Smokebomb understands the importance of developing online content that’s scalable and that makes sense in relation to a series budget, size of the audience and availability of resources to fund it,’ says Shaftesbury VP of sales and marketing Shane Kinnear.

To beef up the new online division, Shaftesbury is bringing in a project manager and coordinator, and then will contract out the time-consuming work of constructing web pages to give Dales and Sherman the chance to focus on creating original concepts.

The first online kids project the new department will tackle is creating online assets for Overruled!, a live-action comedy for tweens about a high school court. Currently airing on Family Channel, it’s been sold to Disney’s US channel and eight other territories. Kinnear says the new team will develop an online app where kids can posit a case they want to take to trial and then have the final verdict determined by online vote.

He adds that similar to companion web content for most kids series, the broadcaster will be closely involved in creative. ‘Broadcasters have proprietary approaches to their audiences, so we really link with them in developing kids programs,’ he says.

Next up, Shaftesbury is in early development on the web plan for a new live-action comedy series it’s co-producing with Heroic Films. Connor Under Cover is about a 15-year-old boy charged with protecting the daughter of a Latin American president.

Kinnear says that since bringing Smokebomb on-board, the company has, for the first time ever, solid online strategies for each of its five productions scheduled in the coming year.

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