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Cyberdramas delight Web surfers


September 2, 1996
Web posted at: 9 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Casey Wian

CULVER CITY, California (CNN) -- The Internet is finding a characteristically interactive answer for the viewer appeal of television soaps and sitcoms.

Dozens of so-called cyberdramas are unfolding on-line, offering entertainment to Web surfers and a challenge to television programmers and producers.


They're hip and hot, and unlike their television counterparts, they can be seen anytime. Already, mainstream TV producers are considering deals with these upstarts.

Take "Grape Jam," which went on-line last week in a splash of brightly colored pages and silly puns on its name, such as "Today's Spread" and the "Grapevine."

In a non-descript house, 15 people work on the project full- time, producing a comedy Web site that includes live improvisational performances, audio programs, a sitcom, games and interaction between characters and the audience.

Live Grape

"We have the same audience as (NBC sitcom) "Friends," "Saturday Night Live," and of people who like films that are mainstream," said Scott Zakarin, a partner in LightSpeed Media.

"The difference is we're just changing the paradigm. We don't have a 22-minute hole, we don't have a three-act structure. We have a different structure that's being invented and is being invented a lot by the audience."

Zakarin expects a daily audience of 25,000 Web surfers, despite competition from more than 70 other so-called cyberdramas, such as "The East Village."
(800K QuickTime movie)movie icon

East Village

The New York-based cyberdrama, with a dramatic black page and white and yellow text, centers around a group of lower East Side Generation-Xers. It's been on-line 1 1/2 years and already claims a daily audience of 50,000.

"It really shows that our prediction that the Web would be used for entertainment is really coming to fruition," said Charles Platkin, President of Marinex Multimedia.

"Once the Web becomes a world-wide phenomenon, which it will, the audience potential is way beyond what television is today."


Neither The East Village nor Grape Jam is profitable yet, though both say that will happen soon. Revenue comes from advertising, which for Grape Jam includes performance spots by characters.

Bigger paydays may be on the horizon from licensing deals and interactive television.

Consumers will soon be able to surf the net on their home television sets, so demand for unique technology-based programming is expected to increase.

"You're instantly internationally recognizable because you're all over the world," said Hope Adams, who plays "Eve" on The East Village.


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