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Pop.com on the Cutting Room Floor

Lights, camera - that's a wrap! That about describes the scene for Pop.com, the so-called entertainment Web portal that never managed to get off the ground, despite being backed by Paul Allen and Hollywood heavies that included the DreamWorks dynamic duo of Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. The failed venture is largely a result of too many cooks in the kitchen spoiling the broth, and it's likely to serve as a lesson to other would be entrepreneurs that it takes more than a roomful of glam and oversized egos to produce a smash hit in the new economy.

Pink slips were delivered to nearly all of Pop.com's 90 or so employees, with just a baker's dozen remaining to man the scaled back operations of its Countingdown.com subsidiary acquired earlier this year. Representatives fired off a prepared statement to comment on the current state of affairs, opining, "Although the Internet continues to represent an exciting, creative opportunity for us, the market has shifted dramatically since our original announcement, resulting in this being a less viable business for us."

In laymen's terms, that roughly translates to, "We had plans to tap the new issues market in a whirlwind IPO without a penny in revenues or a formal business model on the table. After gorging ourselves with newfound money, we planned to issue generous stock options to all of our Hollywood friends and relatives, before cashing out on the back of small investors. But, since no one showed any interested in our hyperbole, we decided to pull the plug. I mean really - you didn't think we were actually planning to invest our own money in this hair-brained scheme did you!?"

After blowing through some $10 million since its vaporware launch last October, Pop.com scrambled to auction itself off to online film aficionado iFilm last month. But eleventh hour talks stalled when Pop.com reps were asking far too high a price for so little in return. Paul Allen himself had at one time slapped a quarter billion dollar valuation on this venture-backed bag of wind when it first set sail, but skeptical suitors were only willing to pay pennies on the dollar for a failed start-up with hardly a tangible asset to speak of.

With no white knight in site, Pop.com has essentially shuttered its doors; and like a ship taking on water, pseudo-celebrity rodents are scurrying for dry land. The embarrassing stigma of being associated with a highly-publicized dot-com meltdown leaves a bitter aftertaste for a group of entertainment tycoons at the top of their game. But misery loves company, and Pop.com won't be alone for long. Napster copycat, Scour.com, axed most of its employees last week amidst pending litigation from the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.

In light of its grim future, the firings are a certain precursor to the end for Scour. Hollywood super-agent Michael Ovitz has even reportedly been busy trying to unload his interest in the peer-to-peer upstart because of some obvious conflicts of interest associated with swapping free movie files over the Web. Curiously, those same conflicts weren't readily apparent when it looked as if Ovitz might still be able to cash in on the nascent technology. But now that the party's over, Tinseltown's elite are exiting stage left.

Any questions or comments, love letters or hate mail? As always, feel free to forward them to kblack@internet.com.

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