I just watched the premiere of my friend Mary Feuer’s new webisode series, “With the Angels” on Strike.TV. The story is about a young religious Arkansas woman moving to Venice, California and discovering how much she is a fish out of water. Some fun stuff, good acting and writing, which in the end is the key to good webisodes. In fact, there were a few webisode shows on Strike.TV that I found better then most other websites. I shouldn’t be surprised, Mary comes from doing close to sixty shows as the head writer for LonelyGirl15. She was also the Story Editor for “Buried Alive” on FEARnet.com.
It really gets you wondering where all these web series are headed. When I did “Unconventional“ and “Senior Year” back in 2002, there were very few webisodes, now they seem to be everywhere. The big question is are people watching. So many of these shows have the feel of failed television pilots, but others hold up on their own. The previously mentioned LonelyGirl15 continues to be a leading force, building storylines beyond the original character, Bree. A whole conspiracy theory and underground resistance keeps the show interesting and worth watching.
Most of these webisodes use YouTube both as a server and as an audience resource, a viral marketplace. In July, five billion videos were viewed on YouTube, was one of them yours? Now after experimenting for months with long-form, YouTube recently made the announcement that they would start offering full length episodes of television shows. YouTube also created “theater view,” a larger video player for longer content. So if YouTube is now showing television shows, what happens to webisodes?
The longer videos will include advertising before, during and after each episode. YouTube has resisted this for shorter videos, which makes sense, but are now looking at in-video overlays. I don’t know if you’ve seen these, but I can’t stand them. The overlays resemble the banner advertisements that appear at the bottom of television programs. As a content producer and director, I find these things distracting and irritating. But I guess that is the point. Unless you’re going to pay for the series yourself, it’s got to have a money source and advertising and sponsors is what is paying those production costs, no matter how small. So even the advertising banners and advertising breaks will resemble television.
I prefer the format of Strike.TV and FEARnet.com. They have interactive areas that include advertising banners and usually you get a short commercial before the requested video, but once the program begins, there are no interruptions. In fact, the whole interactive qualities of comments, games, behind the scenes documentaries, etc. is really the thing what separates these webisodes from regular television. I firmly believe that any web series has to have interactive elements if for no other reason then to draw your audience in and remain on the site beyond the short video. This is becoming the only difference between a series on the web and one on television. Something to consider if you are creating a new show.