I’m seeing more and more “webisode” television and it reminds me of my days in Los Angeles theater. It’s up there, not as a staged experience or to even just entertain, but as a showcase. The creator is actually hoping someone will discover their series and put it on Network television. It’s content for the wrong medium.
In 2002, when I co-produced the documentary series “Senior Year” with David Zeiger for PBS, I also produced a series at KCET, based on the television show for the web. At the time, our biggest challenge was how to make the series accessible and easy to view on home computers. I faced those same problems when I presented my political narrative webseries “Unconventional.” These days we’re past access and viewing issues, but I still haven’t made a dime from any of my webisodes.
I continue to develop webisodes and related content. I’ve come to believe these two things:
1) that there is too much good free entertainment on the internet to expect anyone to pay for your webseries unless you’re Joss Whedon.
Sorry, but someone sends me a link, I usually take a few moments to see what they’ve created, but not if I have to pay on my credit card or Paypal. I even hesitate if I have to enter my email and become a “member.”
2) Unless you don’t care about the costs (and this could be because you’re putting up the webisodes hoping to eventually sell the series to television, you know as a “showcase” of your incredible talent) you’ve got to find an advertising sponsor ( see reason #1).
Now, that’s not always easy, but take some time to figure out the marketing of your work. In a recent issue of Hollywood Reporter, IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller talks about the Web as being in just the early stages of its potential as an advertising medium. He doesn’t see banner advertising having any real success and believes Video ads will be targeted and interrupt programming, as well as playing before and after the content. I’m seeing this happen more and more. I don’t know about you, but as a filmmaker I hate a show being interrupted when I watch it on television and I certainly will hate it on the web, especially if it is my show. However, if that is what it takes to get the money to produce the programming, then I’ll bite my lip and shut up.
So what’s a solution. Well, after producing the live action elements to the upcoming EA video game “Need for Speed:Undercover,” I’m convinced that it is a waste of money to make webisodes look and feel like short three-four minutes of regular television. Instead, it needs to be a whole different form of entertainment, a mixture of interactive gaming, virtual worlds, comedy, music, etc. The viewer needs to say, “wow, I couldn’t have seen that being done any other way.” You’ve got to want to stay at the web site and explore. Then the banner ad does work on the site because it is not ignored but becomes part of the experience. You can even have a commercial, not in the content of the video, but in the interactive content. This stuff requires a lot of thought and planning, but I’m seeing some great cross-over. I think it’s evident on the Need for Speed and Which Road to Take sites.
We’re developing some of these ideas (still very much in development) on the PressPlayMovie site, with ChanneledObsession.com as the marketing portion. On all these sites, things keep changing so the site becomes more interactive and worth a return visit. You build on that. It can’t be just a new episode of television, it’s got to be a bigger experience.
I’m very interested in any other thoughts on these ideas.