When Gemini Division premieres on Monday, the show won’t just be the debut series for NBC’s new digital studio; it will be a litmus test for whether old media can play successfully in web video. This web show has the weight of the traditional media world […]

When Gemini Division premieres on Monday, the show won’t just be the debut series for NBC’s new digital studio; it will be a litmus test for whether old media can play successfully in web video.

This web show has the weight of the traditional media world on its shoulders: In my opinion, the success or failure of Gemini Division will be critical for the web video economy in general and for traditional media in particular. CBS owns Moblogic, Sony inked a distribution deal just last week with Rocketboom, and for such marriages to continue, Gemini Division must thrive.

That’s because the show has all the ingredients one theoretically needs for programming success. For starters, big name star Rosario Dawson is fronting the show. Second, NBC has snagged major brand advertisers in Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Acura and UPS. (C’mon, we don’t see that quintet advertising in Web video too often). Third, the show has a broadcast network’s muscles behind it.

This all means Gemini Division better be a big fat hit or else the ABCs, Sonys, and Warner Brothers of the world could very well start to lose interest in content creation for the Web video medium.

After all, if a web show like Gemini Division fails, why bother investing in online video?

But I think the show has a good chance at becoming a big breakout hit.

There’s a lot of buzz online about the show. And while NBC hasn’t said what it paid digital media studio Electric Farm Entertainment to create the show, the show’s financial model seems to makes sense; ad money pulled in in advance of production helped finance the show. “We won’t greenlight until we have brands lined up who want to be in the show,” said Cameron Death, VP of NBC Universal Digital Studio.

Landing a celebrity is becoming de rigeur, too, because a star brings in a ready-made audience. Look for more Web shows to do this. The creators behind The Writers Room on Crackle told me recently that in order for Crackle to pick up a second season the show will need a heavy celebrity cameo quotient.

The celebrity component was critical to NBC too. “When I look at us as a network we are about A-list talent, high-end production and the ability to create a safe place for brands to play,” Death said. “Having Rosario Dawson attached makes that an easier conversation to have.”

Now it’s up to the potential audience of Gemini Division. And let’s hope the audience grows over the show’s 50 episodes because the web video economy could use a healthy influx of ad dollars from additional brand advertisers who might become more interested in the medium thanks to a Gemini Division success.

Daisy Whitney is a contributing writer with TelevisionWeek and the host of the New Media Minute, a weekly webcast on the business of online video.

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  1. According to the network formula “Dr. Horrible” would never have gotten made. While there was some star power, the show was a quirky musical (not a lot of them on TV today).

    To state that the ongoing interest of old media in new media projects lies with the Gemini Division reminds me of why I disdain the majority of Old Media projects – lack of creativity, lack of vision, unwillingness to take chances.

    I just hope Gemini Division is not just Old Media in the New Media space.

    Oh, let’s not forget that the show may rise and fall, not on it’s plot, star power (though Rosario Dawson is a major babe) but how ham-handed the studio is about its advertising. Are we going to be forced to watch a half-hour show with 10 minutes of commercials? Will I be able to download it or must I deal with crappy streaming. These are just as important as any other consideration in the New Media space.

    Just my two cents

  2. [...] when something will become a hit.  This is why traditional media companies and their hits creation approach to web video content strikes me as odd.  A couple things that ensure that many of these efforts [...]

  3. While that may be true, their website sucks. If the series isn’t available on other video sites, I can’t see the series succeeding. Finding the video you want takes 3 pages. Simplifying this process encourages new visitors to actually watch the series and not leave the website in frustration.

  4. I was all ready to be pumped for this, being a fan of both Rosario Dawson and web video. And then I watched the videos on the site.

    Gulp. It reminds me, not pleasantly, of all those cd-rom games of the mid-90s. This all looks uncomfortably close to a cut scene from Wing Commander. The all green screen approach only really works when you’ve got a budget for it (see 300, Sin City, the Star Wars prequels). This has an undeniably cheap feeling to it, which I’m willing to accept in low-budget independent web video, but not in the show that’s supposed to be the savior of mainstream web series. I’m still gonna give it a chance, but I’m a little worried.

    At least they got Dave Klein to DP it. Mr. Klein has been Kevin Smith’s go-to cinematographer, but I wonder if he’s in over his head here. In the video interview with him on the site, he even looked a little disgruntled about being hired to basically light green screens.

    I guess this is one of those “wait and see” types of things.

  5. I don’t think that New Media needs Old Media to succeed on our turf for us to grow. I think that Old Media can have success in New Media and that those successes can have profound short term benefits for us. Long term, however – New Media is here to stay and nothing can stop that trend. It’s more about demography than anything else. As television’s population ages and shrinks (and for that matter and possibly more importantly as similar demographic dynamics occur within the ranks of Media Executives) the more apparent the need will be for Media entities to be in New Media spaces and MOST importantly for them to see ALL media as one coherent spectrum. We’re in a transition state, waiting for the world to change as the song says. (This will probably be the last US Presidential election where the US electorate could even concieve that we can nominate a Presidential candidate that doesn’t know how to use a computer, for instance). Institutions behave short term, usually, and only think quarter to quarter (I’ve worked on Wall Street, I’ve seen it). Such short term thinking has no effect at stopping long term trends. One’s decision to bury one’s head in the sand has no bearing on the rising tide…


  6. This may be more of a litmus test for the types and intensities of advertisement formats deployed, rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the larger upfront market for financing the production and distribution of online media content.

    Will there be embedded content with selectable flash objects that jump to buy-now pop-up windows? … endless visual and audible streams of product and brand placement?

    How will acceptance of Gemini Division’s new media marketing be captured and measured?

    Let’s not just look at what advertising components are over-bearing in this series, but also think hard about what approaches have yet to be given any decent test in the upfront market, and let’s get a wider discussion going that engages both sponsors and producers.


  7. You mentioned on a recent TWiM that you only like to watch streaming video. Personally, I prefer to download everything.

    While I don’t mind watching the occasional YouTube video on my computer, if I really care about something I prefer to watch it on my television by transcoding it over to my TiVo. Or on occasion, watching it on my iPod Touch.

    Something that is only available on the web is simply not interesting to me.

  8. I was able to view a prescreening of the first two episodes. The ad brand integration was pretty much seamless. Even if I had something to selectively filter out the brands, I wouldn’t want to. It really added to the show and made it that much more real. Rather than interrupting the viewing experience, it actually added realism and immersion to the show. Very nice. A pleasant experience.

    I had concerns about the trailers (they seemed a little flat to me). The webisodes were different. There was an almost immediate emotional connection. Anna (Rosario Dawson) shares who she is and holds nothing back. Wrapped up in this are her emotions and the events that stir them up. She pours out her heart on her PDA and it is just like she is talking to you personally.

    After viewing the first two episodes, there was a conference call with Brent Friedman, fans, bloggers, and media. I review the experience at my blog. Also, have some links to other blogs reviewing the same experience which I will update.

    Tim Todd

  9. Wow NTV you surprise me. You’re rooting for these guys? Have you seen the resume’s of the principals behind the company that produces this show? It’s the same people that have shoveled crap down our throats for the last 25 years on network TV.

    Old school media – new media matrix.

    Buyer beware.

  10. “It reminds me, not pleasantly, of all those cd-rom games of the mid-90s.” Exactly my thoughts Geoff. Even with big name (and let’s not forget talented) actors, if you’re producing a show that has the full power of a network behind it, then it better look really good. If you’re doing a futuristic sci-fi story, then its got to look better than what I saw on the trailer. It looks so low budget that it pulls you out of the story. Even though its pretty good, its not good enough for the general public or myself to accept. There’s nothing wrong with old media. There’s still a place for it. And I’d still rather watch “old media” on the new medium of the internet than watch the “new media” at all. But I’d also still rather watch LOST on an hdtv from my couch than on my laptop in my office chair. Note to major networks: New Media DOES NOT equal cheap production. CheapER, yes, but only to a point.


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