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FOR SALE: Digital Entertainment Network's Original Programming

15 Jan, 2002 By: Staff Reporter

The Digital Entertainment Network story is about sex scandals, lavish parties and dot-com promises of changing the face of entertainment. And, it's about the company's spectacularly publicized demise.

There's also the wealthy investors who lost millions. So investors who might have written off DEN will no doubt be surprised to see the infamous company pop up at the Sundance Film Festival and the National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas next week.

Dean Georgopoulos, DEN's former head of programming, has been enlisted by the bankrupt company's trustee to sell 6,500 hours of programming that DEN produced during a 14-month period at a cost of $30 million.

‘"I'm sitting in Century City surrounded by thousands of tapes that nobody knows about,'" Georgopoulos said. ‘"That's DEN's untold story.'"

He'll be telling that story first via a mobile theater on streets near Sundance, where he'll show some of DEN's programs. Then, it's on to booth No. 3557 at NATPE.

According to DEN's trustee, accounting firm Neilson Elggreen Llp., DEN owes tens of millions of dollars to creditors, and Georgopoulos intends to raise at least some of that money by selling DEN programming to television.

There are also 158 trademarks for sale and a patent for ‘"targeted advertising over the Internet using video,'" which is being done more and more nowadays, though no one is enforcing DEN's patent -- or profiting from that patent, according to Georgopoulos.

DEN's fabled story includes $68 million raised from such investors as NBC, Chase Capital Partners, Microsoft Corp., Dell Computer and Intel Corp., though much of the money promised by Microsoft and Dell was conditional upon certain milestones that DEN was unable to reach, so their losses were limited.DEN also got money from another company that has been in the news lately -- the formerly high-flying and well connected energy concern Enron.

As DEN's story goes, after spending the $68 million on huge employee contracts, parties and various initiatives designed to generate hype, DEN went bust in May 2000 when it failed to raise more funding or find a buyer.

‘"Sony was kicking the tires pretty hard at one point,'" Georgopoulos said, identifying one party that came close to investing in or buying DEN.

‘"We launched the final version of the site on May 16, and we closed down on May 17,'" Georgopoulos recalled.

Not helping DEN's fundraising efforts back then was a canceled public stock offering and a sex scandal involving DEN founder Marc Collins-Rector, who settled a lawsuit alleging that he molested a teenage boy over a 3-year period.

The DEN story also included celebrities and former old-media executives lured by big employment contracts and an opportunity to build the first new-media powerhouse.

Actress Carrie Fisher, for example, was to write the ‘"Denmother'" online column. Then there was Grease> and The Blue Lagoon director Randal Kleiser, who was to create an online sci-fi series; former Capitol Records president Gary Gersh, who was DEN chairman for a while; and former Walt Disney Co. executive David Neuman, who was reportedly paid a salary of $1.6 million at DEN, an exorbitant amount by Internet standards.

In short, DEN's story is the stuff of movies -- and, in fact, may be one some day.

But the story Georgopoulos is telling nowadays concerns 30 different shows produced at DEN that he says would make for great television. Such as 42 six-minute episodes of ‘"Frat Ratz,,'"which is basically ‘"Animal House: The TV Series,'" Georgopoulos said. At DEN's peak, that show was viewed by more than 100,000 people a week, he said.

DEN's site had been up and down throughout the months as it went through various changes

There's also ‘"Tales From the East Side,'" which is like ‘"Beverly Hills, 90210,'" only set in East Los Angeles; and 42 episodes of ‘"Aggronation,'" a series for extreme-sports enthusiasts that features some of the world's best extreme athletes.

‘"We shot these shows just like TV shows, and from this point forward we're marketing them as TV shows,'" Georgopoulos said.

So, once creditors are paid off, will there be any money left over for DEN's high-profile investors? ‘"God only knows,'" Georgopoulos said.-- Paul Bond

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