Yahoo Buys Crime Feature From ‘CSI’ Creator Anthony Zuiker

Yahoo, continuing its push into original video content, gets first-window rights to a film from “CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker

Yahoo has purchased the rights to “Cybergeddon,” a film from "CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker set in the world of cybercrime that will be released on Yahoo this fall.

Zuiker conceived the idea, enlisting Miles Chapman to write the script. The story follows a detective, Chloe, who must work with her ex-boyfriend and her mod squad to prevent a prolific Ukranian hacker from committing “cybergeddon.” That would mean the total collapse of all devices in the world — a 21st century apocalypse.

“It’s a major movie event about crime 2.0 told in the intimate, high-quality setting that shows an exciting new future of storytelling for a motion picture,” Zuiker told TheWrap.

Though the film will be released as a series of installments, both Zuiker and Yahoo described it as a major “motion picture event,” signaling yet another milestone in Yahoo’s expanding original content initiative.

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Yahoo has launched a slate of comedy and female-focused programs and has “Electric City,” a scripted animated series from Tom Hanks, on the way. But this is its first attempt at a tentpole movie.

“I prefer to call it an online blockbuster,” Erin McPherson, vice president and head of video at Yahoo, told TheWrap. “The casting and production quality and all of that is more akin to a feature. And while we may not do a straight day and date release, the global distribution is akin to a theatrical window.”

Viewers will be able to watch “Cybergeddon” in installments, and eventually as a full feature. After Yahoo's first-window deal, it will be made available on other platforms, such as iTunes.

Zuiker continues to work with YouTube on its original content initiative but said Yahoo offered another opportunity to target digital consumers on a massive scale.

Yahoo just passed Vevo as the No. 2 destination for online web video (behind Google), drawing 61 million unique visitors in February. It also boasts 21 of the top 25 web series.

“Everybody wanted it,” Zuiker said. “I don’t want to put specifics in there to make everybody feel bad, but the most popular distribution portals that can pull something like this off all had levels of interest. Yahoo understood it the best and had the widest reach for what they would contribute.”

Yahoo plans to launch the movie with an interactive marketing campaign and to supplement the film with a suite of additional online content. McPherson said that could include online games, apps or other content from the Yahoo site.

“There will be different ways for the audience to explore the content,” she said. “Imagine watching ‘CSI’ and getting to go through a virtual evidence book.”

Zuiker is producing the CAA-packaged film with the help of his own company, Dare to Pass, as well as Dolphin Digital Studios. Symantec, maker of the Norton Antivirus software, is a sponsor.

While the shoot will not begin until May, it has entered pre-production and casting.

Zuiker said he was looking for a “visceral storyteller” to direct, but noted a different format, one that demands a rapid pace. Despite its 90-plus minute length, it will shoot in 20 to 25 days.

He is looking for a strong female lead and believes he can lure an A-list talent to play the villain, because it would only demand a few days.