Kara Swisher

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First Ben Silverman Online Program–"Ready, Set, Dance!"–Debuts on Yahoo

Yahoo and Electus, the multiplatform content studio headed by former NBC entertainment head Ben Silverman, debuted its first original, branded entertainment programming tonight with “Ready, Set, Dance!”

The site, which is now live on Yahoo Music and sponsored by State Farm, merges the candid-camera phenomenon with reality television and “aims to tap into the pop culture interest in television dance shows and dance videos on the Web….”

The Yahoo (YHOO) site is relatively spare right now, with only one episode, titled “Magic Sparkle Chunk and Frisky Ris.”

Reads the description of the show: “Will’s ‘Magic Sparkle Chunk’ style is invading the tranquility of Madison Square Park, while Marisa and her moves will do their best to win over the Times Square crowds.”

“Magic Sparkle Chunk” is as described, and it is both riveting and humiliating. Which is pretty much the point.

Even though no one knows about it, there are already 29 comments, such as: “He’s got chutzpah–besides, if it’s all about fun, he’s got it. She was a bit too serious and honestly…just not as entertaining as the chunky shiney thingie wingie.”

Yahoo’s partnership with Electus was unveiled in January at the Consumer Electronics Show by Yahoo execs Joanne Bradford and Jimmy Pitaro, both of whom you can see in a BoomTown video interview below.

Ironically, U.S. sales head Bradford left Yahoo earlier this year for Demand Media, and Pitaro, as I reported today, is expected to leave the company soon from his post as VP of Media.

Silverman left the broadcast-television network under a cloud last year, but immediately announced he had struck a deal with Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI) to form a studio–called Electus–to make multiplatform content that is backed by big brand advertisers.

The move is similar to a new kind of production company started several years ago by former ABC and Yahoo exec Lloyd Braun and his partner, Gail Berman.

Braun has created online programming for Microsoft (MSFT), including an innovative celebrity site called Wonderwall, as well as producing television shows for networks.

Silverman’s take was to focus on an episodic style, although much of what has been done online so far in this genre by many others has been only moderately successful.

But execs at Yahoo believed that advertisers have been looking for opportunities to put their brands near quality content online.

With the deal, which has been touted by CEO Carol Bartz, Yahoo is putting big hopes in Silverman, who had been a successful producer of television programming in his early career.

But his tenure at NBC was marked by a lot of negative publicity about him personally and, more importantly, by a sharp downturn in ratings.

Here is the first of 12 episodes:

And here is Bradford and Pitaro talking about the Electus deal:

Finally, here is the official press release:

Yahoo! and Electus Launch ‘Ready, Set, Dance!’–a New Original, Branded Entertainment Program Sponsored by State Farm®

· First program launch from the Electus-Yahoo! partnership

· The initiative, created by Notional in partnership with Electus, introduces a new creative format and taps into America’s interest in dance; Available on Yahoo! Music

SUNNYVALE, Calif., September 29, 2010–Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) and Electus, an operating business of IAC (Nasdaq: IACI), today unveiled the first integrated content initiative of the brands’ previously announced content partnership, bringing a new format of original, branded entertainment programming to the web with “Ready, Set, Dance!” Merging the candid camera phenomenon with reality television for digital distribution, the program, which was created by Notional in partnership with Electus, aims to tap into the pop culture interest in television dance shows and dance videos on the Web and will make its premiere debut on Yahoo! Music today. “Ready, Set, Dance!” extends the State Farm® “Why Agent?” brand campaign and creatively engages its young-adult audience. Electus will have overall distribution rights on “Ready, Set, Dance” for all platforms including television, motion picture and digital.

“Ready, Set, Dance!” (readysetdance.yahoo.com) is a 12-episode program that combines Yahoo!’s reach and consumer insights with Electus’s creative expertise to provide Yahoo! Music’s audience with a quick, smart, and high-energy dance competition series. Hosted by pop star Adrienne Bailon, “Ready, Set, Dance!” will live on Yahoo! Music and will be promoted across the Yahoo! network.

State Farm will be seamlessly integrated into the “Ready, Set, Dance!” experience, with a goal of reaching a young-adult audience through fun and interesting content that drives home State Farm’s brand message.

The show features two contestants who will be selected by a series of entertaining auditions. Once chosen, the contestants will be caught by surprise anytime or anyplace, and must immediately break into their dance routines for a chance at “Ready, Set, Dance!” fame and fortune. Each week, viewers can vote on their favorite dancer, and winners will receive $10,000 in each of the six dance contests.

“‘Ready, Set, Dance!’ showcases the best of online marketing and programming by providing relevant and entertaining branded programming at mass scale,” said Jimmy Pitaro, vice president of media at Yahoo!. “Our ongoing relationship with Electus will not only offer great original programming like this for Yahoo! users, but will also give advertisers like State Farm fresh opportunities to integrate their brand into the next generation of digital programming.”

“We are excited to collaborate with Yahoo! and State Farm on this new format,” said Drew Buckley, Chief Operating Officer of Electus. “Yahoo! is known for executing extremely successful branded programming that consumers and advertisers love, and ‘Ready, Set, Dance!’ will look to expand upon that initiative.”

“Yahoo! Music and Electus brought a great concept in “Ready…Set…Dance!!”, said Tim Van Hoof, Advertising Director at State Farm. Understanding the popularity of dance contests among our target audience, State Farm sees this as an innovative opportunity to connect with young adults in the online space in a fun, engaging way.”

Yahoo! has a long history of partnering with marketers to develop custom programs to help them reach their targeted audiences. Yahoo!’s successes in the original programming and branded entertainment space include: “Primetime in No Time,” the most watched original program online; “Tech Ticker,” the most watched finance show online; and “Who Knew?”, which recently became the most successful original program to launch on Yahoo!, with more than 40 million streams in the first four months. “Ready, Set, Dance!” follows State Farm’s first video series partnership with Yahoo! — “Spotlight to Nightlight” — which launched in 2009 and garnered more than 7.2 million video streams.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik