Web TV: After Drought, Hope for Shows Made for Web

When Illeana Douglas, long active in independent film, wanted to make a show about a Hollywood actress who becomes a cog in a blue-collar wheel, she turned to the Web and to an unusual ally, Ikea.

She persuaded Ikea, the Swedish furniture maker, to be the sole sponsor of her Web video show, Easy to Assemble, in which she plays an employee. The most recent episodes, from October through February, drew more than 1.5 million views each month. At home late last month, getting ready for an awards festival where her show would be honored, Ms. Douglas was dressed in a yellow Ikea jumpsuit, mimicking her character.

"The brand is a co-worker in the story line," she said, adding that Ikea does not actually make jumpsuits, so she made one herself.

After a protracted drought, money is trickling back into the professional Web video industry. So-called branded entertainment deals like the one by Ikea are becoming more common, helping to nourish new programming. And venture capital firms are also paying new attention to the industry. My Damn Channel, which distributes "Easy to Assemble," will announce a $4.4 million infusion of financing on Monday, joining companies like Blip.tv and Machinima in raising money this year.

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