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Quarterlife Leaps from Web to NBC TV

A new hour-long show called "Quarterlife," debuting tonight on NBC, will be the first-ever show produced and shot for the Internet to air on network TV.

From the creators of "Thirtysomething" and "My So Called Life," Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, this series follows the life of a twentysomething writer who video-blogs about her friends and roommates on a site called, you guessed, quarterlife.com. It's a close look at the struggles of this generation trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. And with a cinema-verite, handheld-camera style, it's surprisingly good.

"Quarterlife" started out as a pilot for (Walt Disney -owned) ABC a few years ago. It was turned down, so the creators revamped it (picking different characters) and relaunched it this time as a Web series -- on Google -owned YouTube; its own site, Quarterlife.com; and on News Corp.'s MySpace -- making it the first professional series partnered with a social networking site.

The show has a true professional polish, but after a really strong start, didn't get the phenomenal viewership the press seemed to expect. It has a solid viewership of about 100,000 pairs of online eyeballs.

So NBC, suffering a dirth of scripted shows, picked up the show, editing the 8-minute-long webisodes into six, hour-long shows, starting tonight.

The show had big advertisers including Toyota and Pepsi already on board.

And with a social network and online community that's evolved around the show, there could be some serious viewer loyalty. The hope is that advertisers will want to carry their support of the show onto the TV, and that this repackaged video -- which is all already available online -- will attract a whole new audience on the tube. At very least, it's a low-risk proposition for NBC (owned by CNBC's parent, General Electric ), in that it's far less expensive to pick up this show than develop a whole new pilot from scratch.

Now, all eyes on ratings: If the show takes off, you can bet all the networks will increasingly troll the Web for new show concepts.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.