Yahoo to stream original Web series with Tom Hanks

Krystal Peak · January 9, 2012 · Short URL:

Original web content quickly becoming the must-have item for Internet giants

The highly-recognizable voice of Toy Story's Woody will be heard on a new Yahoo Web series called 'Electric City'. The online search engine company, Yahoo, secured the rights for an original Web show produced (and at least partially voiced-by) Tom Hanks according to Yahoo on Monday.

The Web series is, which reportedly started as a puppet concept will guide viewers through a virtual world that is the result of some serious environmental and social problems. The Web series will be comprised of short three to four minutes episodes and will feature a message about energy conservation.  

Many Internet companies outside the the view of the Hollywood sign have been getting into the sitcom and video content creation industry including YouTube and Netflix. With strong Internet money and a captive audience that is more easily reached and tracked, Internet companies could become the new production houses influencing Hollywood.

This is Yahoo first dip into creating original scripted content. The series, set under the title "Electric City," if successful, could prompt the Internet company to create more original video content for entertainment and sign with more partners.

The new series will also reach a broader audience since it will be available in multiple languages and will be optimized for various mobile devices. 

In total, the series is expected to reach 90- minutes of action-packed sci-fi adventure and educational information for people of all ages.

Electric City brings together entertainment groups Playtone and Reliance Entertainment. 

Playtone is Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's film and television production company, which has been behind productions such as Mamma Mia!, Charlie Wilson's War and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  

This Web series will also include several other interactive elements to learn more online. Yahoo will host an 'Electric City' 3-D interactive map that viewers can use to explore the virtual world and characters within it. Much like many traditional series have been doing online, viewers of 'Electric City' can also view exclusives, commentary and outtakes for the program, and there will also be casual social games tied to the series.

Google-owned YouTube, recently put $100 million toward providing quality, original content for the social platform and in the coming months will be rolling out 100 channels created by the likes of, WWE Fan Nation, The Wall Street Journal, Bleacher Report and American Hipster.

The channels were created to ultimately generate at least 24 hours of original programing each day -- much like an alternative cable channel.

YouTube's creation of new and original content that users can subscribe to will presumably result in an increase in the number of minutes that each user will be on the site. Especially considering that the average YouTube video is only 4 minutes and the average user is on the site five hours a month.

Celebrities that will be featured on different YouTube channels include Shaquille O'Neal, Madonna and Ashton Kutcher.

This year, Netflix will also start rolling out orignal series' that it has invested heavily in, including the first series to pop its head out of the abyss was 'Lilyhammer.' Featuring 'The Sopranos' star Steven Van Zandtand set to air in the US, Canada and Latin America in early February, 'Lilyhammer' is poised to create a stronger reason for people to choose the movie service over similar services with Amazon and RedBox.

In March, the video-streaming company announced that it had outbid HBO and AMC for the rights to 'House Of Cards,' an adaptation of the successful 1990 British miniseries. The show will star Kevin Spacey, and is being produced David Fincher -- the producer behind Fight Club and The Social Network. That series isn't expected until the end of 2012 and has already received great buzz.

Another expected win in the Netflix column includes the revitalization of the cult hit 'Arrested Development'. The sitcom with stars such as Portia De Rossi, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Michael Cera ran on basic cable from 2003-2006 and is coming back in 2013 exclusively on Netflix.

Yahoo currently touts 700 million users worldwide and hosts some original video programs that reach more than 26 million people per month. 

Further details about this production are expected at the CES conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Yahoo stock (NASDAQ :YHOO) was trading Monday at $15.50.


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