With Web-Based Series, Who Has The Last Laugh?
Jerry Seinfeld wants to give us a coffee break from our usual TV menu by starting a Web-based series,"Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," on Sony Pictures Television’s original video site Crackle.
That will help boost Crackle in its competition with bigger video sites like Hulu, YouTube and Netflix. Crackle has done this before with a few other celebrities. Some might say they are vanity projects.
Well, why not? Seinfeld's online effort is a no-lose proposition: His brand name is pretty well intact, as he is still playing big comedy venues.
The simple premise of comedians talking in cars and sitting in coffee places, telling jokes, is perfect online material. But this kind of online fare doesn't have the depth, story lines and character development that people still expect from the lean-back entertainment environment of traditional TV.
CBS converted a popular Twitter account into the TV show "$#*! My Dad Says," but it didn't last. To date, no Internet-based content -- video or otherwise -- has become a successful, long-term, financially thriving TV show.
Internet proponents would tell you that new TV models should be invented to incorporate this stuff, especially shorter-length two and four-minute series that would last about 10 episodes or so.
But after all these years, one still has to wonder -- where is the monetization for such original efforts in the online space?
Short-attention-span, multitasking traditional TV viewers would seem a perfect fit for this stuff. The audience would include older viewers -- remember that fans of “Seinfeld,” which went of the air in 1998, are still around -- who seem to be gravitating in this direction.
But don't expect Sony to market Seinfeld’s latest effort on television, where big-time shows get exposure. Sony will count on social media, search and other online marketing tools. That virtually assures that “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” will not get big TV-like audiences.
This isn't to say that some day there will not be a true breakout hit -- perhaps a germ of an idea -- for a traditional TV show. Maybe the day will come when we'll be watching a half-hour time-shifted comedy from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW or even Univision and then easily switch to a three-minute episode of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.".
But in an instant, some of us will probably miss that three-minute bit -- or decide to move to another bit of media, as we pour another espresso.