Congratulations to my friends over at Pure Grass Films (PGF), who have taken a strategic investment from TV producer Endemol, as reported in the Guardian here. This is a great cross-over deal between old and new media, and the large production houses should watch this space closely. Endemol is perhaps the 'newest' of the Old Media companies, having made its initial fortune on global TV brands like Big Brother and (my preferred) Ready-Steady-Cook.
Endemol is being smart about its digital media investments. Rather than use its financial and political clout (Berlusconi, John de Mol, Goldman Sachs) to engineer a merger with a large online property, Endemol is making small, strategic acquisitions at the bleeding edge of its industry. The focus remains on production and not on owning the means of distribution -- no AOL/TW debacle here.
With Pure Grass and MoMedia as new investments, Endemol is pre-emptively tying up the top emerging talent for New Media: mobile, IPTV, and Web. What Endemol 'gets' is that repurposing existing TV shows isn't good enough, and it's what most of its legacy competitors are doing. But these New Media are still in flux, viewing habits are not yet predictable, and experimentation (among viewers and producers) is rife.
In order to succeed, new media production needs to be more like consumer Internet releases -- more frequent new material, produced at low cost, with lots of consumer input. This requires a different skillset than traditional TV production and a cultural belief that traditional rules can be broken. Endemol already showed it can do that with its invention and spectacular exploitation of the reality TV genre (think what you might about its cultural value...). Now, with mobile fillm pioneers Ben and Tom Grass, they have invested in a team that can get them there.
PGF's newest film, Beyond the Rave (starring Sadie Frost and music oversight by Pete Tong) will be an interesting test of both format and channel innovation: it is being released exclusively on MySpaceTV (April 17) as 20 'webisodes' before being repackaged and sold as a full-length DVD. Check out the trailer below and coverage from the Telegraph here.