But there's been a lot of talk lately in the industry if calling your project a "Web series" is good for it long term.
It depends on whom you ask -- and what the content is.
Different Name, Same Game
Aspiring writers and producers with long-term goals of creating for TV and film are producing "Web series" to get noticed. But how many use the platform efficiently as an incubator for developing and fine-tuning their content for multiple platforms?
When you're creating premium scripted or un-scripted content is when you have to decide to call it a "Web series." Does that name take away from the project? Is your project a calling card for the content, much like a film festival entry, short film or interstitial video, which independent producers have been using for ages as a stepping stone into film or TV?
Many big projects have started as short films or interstitials - for example, "Napoleon Dynamite," which was based on Jon Heder's short film "Peluca." "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," the widely popular comedy on FX, was based on the short film "Charlie Has Cancer," which became its pilot episode.
There are many independent and well-known producers now flocking to the Web, some using it as an effective incubator for TV, game, and multiple digital platform content development, and others who are using as a step to TV. Using the Web as a launching pad for trailers, sample episodes, or a half-hour pilot strung together of short episodes, can really show what the final product will look like. The Web offers real-time development where producers get direct & authentic feedback on their content, good or bad, increasing audience loyalty exponentially.
Independent producers can now directly post their video content, get immediate feedback, build audience (if it is good), and possibly build a brand and following, enough to monetize, is a unique and direct opportunity. With over 2 billion videos viewed a day, YouTube gives producers a window to test new content through existing communities and channels, providing a raw opportunity never seen before.
Develop for where you want to be
One of my favorite quotes as a producer and entrepreneur is from Wayne Gretzky, who famously said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." So produce your Web project based on where you want to take it.
But remember: An independent Web series is like any other content being developed or pitched for film or TV.
It's about the content. It's about the story. A good story transcends platforms.
Great post. As television (be it network or cable) has always been where the viewers are, that's where the focus of studios and writers focus has been. As the attention and viewership has started to shift to the web it makes sense that there is a shifting focus on the production side as well.
However, with both television and web series you still have to promote the shows and create interest. There is no built in viewership or audience. In the place-based media, out-of-home space... quick-service restaurants in particular we are installing televisions in places where thousands of viewers go each month and spend longer than the average network sitcom (25 minutes according to Nielsen) watching the programming. So you have a captive audience and an audience that's already there with limited entertainment choices to start with. In the coming months we will be adding 700 locations (that's approximately 7 million viewers) to our existing 1,035 locations and will reach approximately 20 million viewers each month. This number in total rivals or exceeds the weekly viewership of many cable networks.
Video, is video is video. Whether it's a show on network television, a web series or a show on out-of-home televisions in restaurants.. video is video is video. And as long as the audience is there to watch, so will the advertisers and it will be successful.
Good article Jeremiah.
I agree that the web is a great way to 'get noticed'. Creative people who previously didn't know how to 'navigate' through the system can now be unearthed.
However, I would be interested in your thoughts as to whether the web will be able to sustain the production budgets to bring these ideas to fruition with enough mass behind them. I doubt it as the online revenue tends to be fragmented. I suspect it will mean that networks and studios (who fund the gross majority of popular video production) will be able to cast their creative net wider, which is a great thing, but will still retain control for at least the medium term - i.e. same system but more players can enter the game.
(Full disclosure: my wife is an independent children's TV producer here in Australia.)