Greats creates Web celebs
June 9, 2008
Imitation may be a
form of flattery, but it can also become a revenue
stream for celebs and copyright holders.
At least that's what the founders of Virtual Greats hope
The Los Angeles-based company has inked deals with
Justin Timberlake, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Snoop Dogg,
Paris Hilton, Raven Symone, Tila Tequila and Marvel's
Incredible Hulk to turn their likenesses into virtual
goods for members of online communities like Gaia,
Second Life and Habbo.
Members would pay a fee to make the avatars they use to
roam around the virtual worlds look like their favorite
celebrities or characters. Or they could purchase a
certain hair style, catchphrase, dance move, clothing
line or other bit associated with the celebs or
Prices vary depending on the community or demand of
Virtual Greats was launched by San Francisco agency
Millions of Us to take advantage of the growing sales of
virtual goods in online communities -- everything from
clothes to cars to furniture -- as a way for members to
personalize their digital existences in the worlds.
But few if any digital deals were being struck directly
with Hollywood and its celebrities; digital copyrights
just didn't exist for online communities, meaning
potential revenue was being lost.
"The inspiration for Virtual Greats came when I realized
that this was a $1.5 billion market without any
high-value copyrighted material," said Reuben Steiger,
CEO of Millions of Us and a former Second Life
Steiger and Virtual Greats CEO Dan Jansen paired up with
entertainment attorney Skip Brittenham to broker the
initial talent deals.
Jansen is a former head of the Boston Consulting Group's
media and entertainment practice, as well as a new media
investor and entrepreneur.
"This is a way for talent to control who they are while
also making money," Jansen said.
But it could also eventually become a way for Hollywood
to promote upcoming projects.
The deal with Marvel will help push "The Incredible
Hulk" as the green superhero stomps into theaters June
"Someone like Justin Timberlake could also use it to
promote his next album or movie," Jansen said.
Virtual Greats said it eventually plans to offer its
digital goods across 60 virtual worlds and social media
platforms, with the company handling the financial and
technical elements of each sale. Revenue is split
between Virtual Goods, the copyright holder and the
Company has initially brokered a deal with virtual world
Gaia Online, which has more than 5 million members made
up of mostly teens that visit the site per month.
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