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Summary:

When EQAL told us earlier this month that it was getting out of the original webisodic entertainment game to focus on creating digital experiences for established brands, we took note. These were, after all, the guys behind Lonelygirl15, arguably the most successful original web series ever. […]

When EQAL told us earlier this month that it was getting out of the original webisodic entertainment game to focus on creating digital experiences for established brands, we took note. These were, after all, the guys behind Lonelygirl15, arguably the most successful original web series ever. If they didn’t see much of a future in original web content, who does?

EQAL’s move followed ABC shuttering its new media studio, Stage 9, and 60Frames closing down, both of which were built around the idea of creating original episodic content for the web.

Even the companies that are still making original web series increasingly seem to have some kind of old media hook attached to their productions. Crackle brought onboard Ed Brubaker and Zoe Bell for Angel of Death, and told us that it’s looking to spend more on talent both behind and in front of the camera on its productions. Electric Farm Entertainment, which previously worked with Rosario Dawson on Gemini Division, is partnering with MTV for the upcoming vampire series Valemont, and cast Jon Heder as the lead in its zombie comedy Woke Up Dead.

With so many creators looking to old media for its new media inspiration, what does the future hold for straight-up original web series?

To find out more, head over to GigaOM Pro, where I expand on this topic with views from execs at Electric Farm Entertainment, Crackle, and MTV Networks. GigaOM Pro is our subscription research service where you can get access to deep dive articles and original research reports from top analysts on a wide variety of topics including the connected home, mobile technology, green IT and infrastructure.

  1. Josh McHugh Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Two words: Dorm Life

  2. Colin Donald Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Chris,

    One objective measure of a Web show’s success is whether it has returned for a second or third season, with a sponsor (or other external funding partner) attached.

    Some of the series that have done so in the last 12 months include:
    * Back on Topps – 2 seasons
    * Cell – 2
    * Dorm Life – 2
    * The Guild – 3
    * Sofia’s Diary – 3
    * Lisa Kudrow’s Web Therapy – 2

    You could add to that ongoing series, such as Diggnation, which just had its 200th episode.

    For a new creative sector that hardly existed two years ago and is facing a brutal recession, that seems like a reasonable success rate.

    Our research at Futurescape.TV predicts that the next wave of successful Web shows will be productions targeting and actively involving online communities. It’s a strategy that’s being followed by DECA, Next New Networks and Revision3 and which we’ve called WeVision.

  3. gstrompolos Sunday, June 28, 2009

    As digital distribution becomes the norm, web series will be known simply as series.Boring concepts and bad distribution plans will continue to fail, but there will definitely be some gems. Most of the same rules still apply.

  4. Aanarav Sareen Sunday, June 28, 2009

    I think many people have approached the concept of professional online video incorrectly. In the media business, you make money by charging a subscription fee and by offering advertisers a message delivery platform.

    However, the subscription model has not worked online. And, advertisers are still not convinced that it’s the right way to go.

  5. Thee Stranger Sunday, June 28, 2009

    EQAL just copied what had already been done and turned it into Lonelygirl15. They’ve been milking that pilfered concept ever since.

    There will always be a future for web shows, as long as they’re good and don’t retread what’s already been done.

  6. One example in 12 months?
    Six examples in 12 months?

    How much more can we lower the bar of expectations? If anyone remembers 3-years ago, there was the prospect of hundreds, if not thousands, of viable niche market Series that could be sustained by this emerging industry. The future was burning bright…media blogs such as this one appeared…we drank the KoolAid by the bucket load.

    But, the few economic success models did have to “think cross-platform” or franchise-based, where there were revenue streams from anywhere other than online (How much was Prom Queen worth in Japan compared to US/Myspace?). Online ad revenue (other than pre-negotiated flat sponsorships) is worth Nada – the money has to come from somewhere else.

    There is virtually no funding support to launch quality based independent Series (the Risk money that networks and studios are accustomed to doling out).

    There is virtually no advertising support.

    The medium is (unfortunately) not much more than a “calling card” for some Directors, Producers and maybe Talent to get an Agent and get a “real job” in old media.

    I believe there remain two fundamental problems: (a) new producers don’t understand or appreciate the need for traditional distribution components; and, the new networks (Grouper/Crackle being key) didn’t facilitate cross-platform distribution and monetization. And, (b) Online Series are using old media tools in an interactive universe. Basically, the evolution of “interactive video” may be what resurrects the prospect for “new TV” — the tools aren’t there yet, but, they will be.

    RIP. For now.

  7. Indie Self-funded Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Here’s the problem, the established players that people look to for contact are only there because they planted their flag first. First is not best.

    The running theme you hear is that the content should fit the medium. Well, these established players aren’t delivering that are they?

    The indie self-funded shows that are getting squeezed out of the process are the very ones who could save it. They are the ones who using the medium to it’s potential but you’ll never find them. They are hidden on their own websites and obscure YouTube channels.

    At the end of the day, if it’s good people will watch. Everyone loves a winner. Money goes to success.

  8. Indie Self-funded Sunday, June 28, 2009

    *contact=content :(

  9. Anthony DeLosa Sunday, June 28, 2009

    A lot of people seem to be in a rush to proclaim this industry dead. That only serves the big studios. Think about it. They can wait it out and pick up the pieces.

  10. Irony?

    The people interested in this subject, are probably the people who can’t get their Series funded, because advertisers really didn’t step into this space (as they did with early oldTV) and because “subscription models” don’t work.

    But, to read more and get the good stuff, we who can’t get funded are supposed to pay GigaOm-Pro for a subscription to read an article about how there isn’t any money here?

    What?

    I’d say that sums up the state-of-the-industry pretty well, even the blog-trades have their tin cans out hoping for some pittance to get them through another day.

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