Showtime Networks and Ilene Chaiken, the creator and executive producer of hit lesbian drama The L Word, have formed a joint venture to launch a social networking site for lesbians inspired by the show.

The site, OurChart.com, will feature content from the series and will launch next month along with Season 4 of The L Word.

With a title drawn from one of the series’ central story lines, OurChart is believed to be the first US-based social networking site launched around an entertainment property. It also is the first ad-supported venture for the premium cable channel, which does not accept paid advertising on its network.

“I wanted to take the experience I have had telling stories on The L Word and expand it to an interactive medium so that women can tell their own stories and share their own interests,” said Chaiken.

Ilene Chaiken, one of the entertainment industry’s most accomplished female entrepreneurs and a leading television producer and writer, will be OurChart CEO.

She has received numerous awards for her contribution to the LGBT community, some of which include: the 2006 GLAAD Media Award recognising The L Word for Outstanding Drama Series; the 2005 Artistry Award from Power Up; the 2004 Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign; and the 2004 Community Role Model Award from the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Centre.

“The launch of OurChart.com speaks to the many opportunities that exist now to expand the presence of a show beyond the traditional viewing experience,” said Matthew Blank, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks, to the New York Times.

“It will bring the world of The L Word to a whole new audience of fans.”

Blank said that while the site naturally will help promote L Word, it was created to be a totally separate stand-alone business and is in no way a

“promotional stunt” for the programme.

“The show and OurChart will feed one another, but this is a new business that we hope will be very successful,” he said. “

The site will be an online social networking space built to connect and engage the lesbian community as well as their friends and families and will feature original and user-generated content in addition to exclusive content from the show.

OurChart’s premise is inspired by one of the central story lines in The L Word: a wall-sized, handwritten white-board ‘Chart’ designed to keep track of the various connections, especially the myriad hookups and heartbreaks among the show’s many characters. OurChart.com will build a network of women into a real ‘Chart’ in a unique and useful manner to allow users to connect their interests, hobbies, and communities and, if they choose, their love lives.

L Word cast members Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey will serve as OurChart founding partners and develop content for their fans that reflects their personal interests. As founding partners, the actresses also will share in the revenue.

The L Word fans will have regular access to the show’s creative team, exclusive material from the show, special insights and behind the scenes action on individual episodes. In addition, OurChart will commission original videos, stories and photos from prominent creative collaborators to feature exclusively on the site. “We hope,” said Moennig in a press statement, “that a wonderful variety of artists will help make this a home where people can have a great media experience.”

“This is an exciting project for us, and a great extension of what our show is about,” Beals said in a media release. “For me, Kate and Leisha, it is a chance to broaden a conversation that we all have felt privileged to be a part of–about identity and community and the importance of representation.”

“I’m excited about this project for the same reasons that my character, Alice, created the Chart – because we all are compelled to, as Alice says, ‘reach out from the alienation of modern life’ in order to make connections,” said Hailey in a press statement.

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