BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : OCTOBER 23, 2000 ISSUE
BUSINESS WEEK E.BIZ -- SPECIAL REPORT

Babes in Broadband


Larry Kasanoff doesn't mince words. The 41-year-old Wharton graduate, a film producer of movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Platoon, calls TV network executives ''weasels,'' says studio executives fear for their jobs, and puts down Silicon Valley entertainment startups as ''50 executives sitting around without any idea for a program.'' Oh, yes, and the much-anticipated broadband future will be like the LA freeway, ''nine lanes blocked'' with content, and only one moving at any given time.

When that lane moves, Kasanoff intends to be in it, driving hard with his company, Threshold Entertainment. The man who brought America the CD game Mortal Kombat has created 33 Internet shows aimed at titillating sex-crazed, action-loving teenage boys. For a $9.95-a-year subscription to TheThreshold.com, they get exclusive pictures and personal chats with blonde bombshell and former wrestler Rena Mero. They also can take in the animated exploits of Pete the P.O.'d Postal Worker, catch martial arts action on BlackBelt.com, or listen as Shakespeare is read (without much expression) by scantily clad women in Bikini Masterpiece Theater.

TheThreshold.com is one man's vision of a media company in the Internet age, a symbiotic operation creating brand-name programming that easily moves among the Internet, film, and TV shows. These days, the 62 computer artists at the Santa Monica headquarters of the privately held company make special effects for films such as Scary Movie and TV commercials for clients such as Korbel Champagne Cellars.

Good thing those businesses are profitable enough to help pay the freight for the Web site, which earlier this year raised $7 million from a group that included investment bankers Allen & Co. Kasanoff claims his collection of sites has 1.5 million monthly users, but its real payoff will come if it can launch its Net shows on TV or in theaters. Already, he says, he is dickering with several cable channels he won't identify.

One Net show getting a lot of attention is Babe Exchange. The show treats stars such as Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock like stocks. Viewers can track their rise or fall, starting with their IBO (Initial Babe Offering), by using news items and gossip columns. His pitch to TV executives? ''This already is a show, and you can make money off of it too,'' he says. Kasanoff already sells car polish from his site's Boyd Coddington auto series and swords and knives from the animated movie Heavy Metal.

Chainsaw massacre. Kasanoff's next online hit could come from an offline product called Food Fight, one of four movies he's currently making. Financed with money from Korean animation house Natural Image, the $55 million movie will feature brand-name products like Mr. Clean and Twinkies fighting generic brands in the grocery store aisles. Already, he's got the makers of popular grocery items from M&M's to Chef Boyardee to let him use their products. He's hoping they'll sponsor the 22 shorts he wants on the Net by the time the movie hits theaters next year.

His biggest online hit so far? The first episode of Must be Destroyed, in which users voted for the thing they most wanted to see demolished. The answer: Pokemon. Over a million people logged on to see the Pokemon character Picachu carved up with a chainsaw. The next day, you can bet that Kasanoff was on the phone the next day, chatting up some ''weasel'' about putting the execution on prime time.

By Ronald Grover

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EBIZ Contents for issue dated Oct. 23, 2000


HollyWeb Flops

TABLE: Retakes

Babes in Broadband

Re-editing IFILM



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