Disney's ABC has indefinitely postponed the debut of a unit charged with launching original online series.
The unit, known as Stage 9, planned to distribute its first offering in February with one of four shortform episodic programs scheduled to roll out this year. A Disney spokeswoman declined comment.
Disney isn't saying why Stage 9 is being put on the back burner, but sources indicate the parent company does not want to risk inflaming the guilds with a venture intended to grab digital revenue -- a sore point in strike negotiations. However, Stage 9 has been in operation since February, months before the strike began.
Disney has never officially announced the formation of the five-man unit, but Stage 9 is something of an open secret in online-production circles. In what could be an indication of its uncertain future, the operation was moved from its bungalow on Disney's lot to a company office elsewhere in Burbank.
Stage 9 might end up another example of the fits and starts major media companies are experiencing in their attempts at original programming online. Many of Disney's competing conglomerates have encountered difficulties maneuvering in the space, from the slow start of Warner Bros. Tele?vision Group's Studio 2.0 to the fadeout of NBC's DotComedy and CBS' Innertube.
Stage 9 is run by Natalie Vansant, director of business development and strategy at Disney. The division reports to Mark Pedowitz, president of ABC Studios.
Separately, another online series being developed at Disney is "The Owners," a comedy pilot ABC passed on from the team of Fred Goss and Nick Holly ("Sons & Daughters"). The pilot was recut into smaller segments for online distribution, similar to the fate of another rejected pilot, "Quarterlife," which resurfaced last year in altered form on MySpace; NBC has since picked it up for a primetime berth next month.