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SXSW ’14: Stage17 Taps Theater Talent for Online Network

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Ondine Landa Abramson is in Austin, Texas, trying to drum up a little attention for Stage17, an online video network that will harness Broadway talent to satisfy a Broadway demographic.

By that description, it sounds like Stage 17 will be full of Sondheim reviews and costume dramas, but that’s not the idea at all. Based in New York City, Stage17 gives stage professionals an online outlet for their creativity, but the shows they’re creating don’t look much like Broadway fare. There will be comedy/drama episodics about suburbia and finding love. There’s a drag queen-hosted advice show and a comedy about the difficulties of finding a babysitter. For the Broadway lover, there’s a style show about preparing for opening nights and a show set at Sardi’s where stage veterans reminiscence about their shows.

By working with Broadway talent, Stage17 is hoping to appeal to Broadway fans. That means creating a network that primarily attracts women between 25 and 54 years of age. The top video networks around now primarily appeal to men, Landa Abramson says, because while video was taking off online, women have been connecting on blogs. Now it’s time to create a great video destination for women. (Okay, AOL Video has already done that. Maybe it’s time for a second great destination.)

The idea for Stage17 began with David Stoller, chairman and CEO of Reach4Entertainment, the parent company of Stage17. Stoller hired Landa Abramson a year ago to create a network that would fill the online video void for a tech savvy female viewer. With a staff of 10 and a network of around 200, she has tapped the Broadway community to create a slate of shows that will debut in a month. At launch, the company will offer 10 produced shows, 6 licensed show, and over 100 hours of content.

Monetizing that content is the main challenge, and Landa Abramson has ambitious plans. While videos will be free to view, she plans to make registration a requirement for commenting and gaining access to premium content. She also plans to offer a paid subscription that will offer video previews and advanced mobile device features.

Stage17 won’t have advertisers from the start, but Landa Abramson is confident she can attract them. “My target is to get somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 subscriptions,” she says. With that kind of viewer base, she believes she’ll be able to form strong ad relationships. Her timeline to get ads going is a short 6 months.

Landa Abramson is also talking to consumer goods and auto brands about creating branded content. “I think you can create really great content that’s of a branded nature, but the audience is smart so you have to be transparent,” she notes.

This will be busy year for Stage17, one that will determine whether or not the site takes off, but Landa Abramson is confident that female viewers are hungry for the kind of content she’ll provide.

“We’re definitely a startup at this point, but we think we command this niche right now,” she adds.

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