Digital Broadcasting Group Offers a Web-Style Upfront

Producer of Kiefer Sutherland-vehicle The Confession

Digital Broadcasting Group, the online video ad network/production firm behind the new Kiefer Sutherland-starring Web offering The Confession, announced a handful of new original series on Thursday at an upfront-style event in New York, including a reality show about a celebrity DJ, yet another dance competition and an '80s-themed reality program.

Among the new projects unveiled in the hope of enticing video-hungry advertisers was In the Booth, a proposed 15-episode series that would provide behind-the-scenes looks at the life and work of Tiesto, a celebrity DJ who performs before packed stadiums. That project is being shepherded by Believe Entertainment Group, one of the companies behind the new LeBron James-starring animated series The LeBrons.

DBG is also seeking sponsors for Step on the Bus, an Endemol-produced series following two buses touring the country seeking dance talent. That show seems aimed at capitalizing on the success of LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, which has run for several seasons on Hulu, as well as Yahoo and Electus’ Ready, Set, Dance.

Also in the reality vein is House of 86, a reality series which will place four 25-year-olds in a home where they’ll be forced to live like it’s 1986 (the year of their births)—no doubt meaning bad fashion and a shared Macintosh Plus on their kitchen table.

While 86 is still minus sponsors and distributors, DBG is further along with Outspoken, a new sports interview series it unveiled on Thursday. That show, hosted by former NBA star Rick Fox, is set to air on Fox Sports Television Network, as well as on the Web on DBG’s network.

DBG also announced the renewal of two projects, the concert-centric Times Square Live and Control TV, the Seth Green-produced reality vehicle that enables the audience to make decisions for a young man, 24 hours a day.

According to CEO Chris Young, the company has eight series currently in production, and plans to produce 36 Web shows overall in 2011, up from 21 last year. None has quite the star power of The Confession, however, which besides 24’s Sutherland also features noted British actor John Hurt.

Neither DBG nor Hulu has released any viewership numbers for The Confession—though Young raved that it had topped several broadcast series during its debut week on the video hub. Yet no sponsors have signed on to support the series, which features some harsh language and violence. The show was shot last December, leaving little time for DBG to sell it to brands before its March debut. Instead, Hulu is running pre-roll ads prior to Confession episodes.

“The Confession is a new kind of animal,” Young said. “It’s more like an extension of a brand’s TV budget.” Most of DBG’s series concepts are designed to incorporate product placement. Last year the company sold 40 percent of its upfront series, claimed Young, who expects to sell 60 percent this year. “And if brands don’t like what we have, no problem. We’ll create a show for them,” he said.

That approach seems to be working. While more than half of DBG’s revenue comes from its network, originals are growing as a revenue source. In 2009 the company pulled in $10 million in revenue, according to Young. Last year that number climbed to $21 million last year, “and we’ll do $40 million this year,” he said.