By Cotton Delo
AOL touted a slate of new programming at its digital content "newfront" aimed at luring TV buyers with takes on familiar concepts, such as crime-scene investigations and housewife angst, that have made fortunes for the networks in the last decade.
Two of the series AOL unveiled Tuesday are scripted, which suggests that AOL is serious about investing in original content in hopes of winning TV ad dollars. One notable unscripted series: Twitter co-founder Biz Stone will host a 12-part series where he interviews the likes of former President Bill Clinton and the CEOs of Cisco and Nike.
At the center of AOL’s video strategy is a hub called "AOL On," with channels such as food, business, entertainment, style and tech, in part curated by celebrities such as chefs Sam Talbot and Marc Forgione, "Entourage" star Adrian Grenier, and the ubiquitous Heidi Klum (who already has her own AOL site), who have agreed to appear on-screen talking about their areas of interest and to create "playlists" of video content picked from AOL’s library.
All the new programs announced today are short-form, with each episode running for five to seven minutes. Debuting today on AOL On’s tech channel and on the Huffington Post’s crime vertical is "Digital Justice," a weekly reality series running for five episodes that shows how crime prevention units are deploying digital technology across the country. (An upcoming episode centers on the controversial "long-range acoustic hailing devices" that were reportedly used to disperse crowds at some "Occupy" protests last year.)
AOL’s two upcoming scripted series, "Fetching" and "Little Women Big Cars," were both produced by Vuguru, the web studio founded by Michael Eisner through his Tornante Company. (It also just agreed to develop new scripted series for Yahoo.) AOL first inked a deal with Vuguru in November 2010, when the studio agreed to produce at least six original scripted series for the company, but these are the first series to be produced.
Debuting May 7 is "Little Women Big Cars," which features Kristy Swanson of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie, Ed Begley Jr. of "Portlandia," and Antonio Sabato, Jr. of "Melrose Place." According to a press release, "’Little Women Big Cars’ centers around four devoted soccer moms struggling to balance their busy schedules, family lives and sanity."
The other announced Vuguru series, "Fetching," is being eyed to debut in June. Written by a "Sex and the City" veteran, it centers on a woman who quits her lawyer job and ends her engagement to open a doggy daycare business.
The largely celebrity-driven programming slate includes a vehicle for Nina Garcia, the Marie Claire fashion director and "Project Runway" judge, who was described in the program as "a secret weapon, guiding and motivating women through major life changes."
And then there’s the previously announced "Tiger Beat Entertainment," which is being developed for the back-to-school season on Cambio.com. Jennifer Lopez will be an executive producer for "the scoop on entertainment, pop culture, and lifestyle for millennials." However, Ms. Lopez hasn’t committed to being on camera.