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Summary:

Attending the Strike.TV screening at the American Cinematheque last Friday was like going on a trip in a time machine. I say this not because the hour-and-a-half screening — broken up by lengthy Q&As with a wide range of cast and crew from the approximately 15-20 […]

striketv

Attending the Strike.TV screening at the American Cinematheque last Friday was like going on a trip in a time machine. I say this not because the hour-and-a-half screening — broken up by lengthy Q&As with a wide range of cast and crew from the approximately 15-20 web series featured — was held at the historic Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, but because the entire evening was mired in the year 2008.

This attitude came from comments made by the execs present, such as CEO Peter Hyoguchi, who admitted that the reason Strike survived the economic downturn was because it’d never managed to become a full-scale operation. “It’s good we never got funded, because you have to be in business to go out of business,” he said. But while during both the introductory videos and the Q&As, creators waxed romantic about the joys of producing their content for the web, free of studio notes and other restrictions (exactly the same points that were made in 2008), some of those same creators did engage in some real talk about just how far, financially, they were willing to take their labors of love.

www.strike.tv Teaser from StrikeTV on Vimeo.

For example, when moderator Bob Kushell asked if a new season of Dangerous Women would be forthcoming anytime soon, star/producer Ellen Sandweiss was quick to reply, “Are you gonna pay me for it?” And Fusion creator Richard Manning was equally upfront about there only being a pilot episode for his 2009 project, and needing some kind of funding in order to continue. “You can really only ask people to work for free once,” he said.

Anyone But Me creators Susan Miller and Tina Cesa Ward said that their show is currently funded thanks largely to a private investor, but if they can’t find a sponsor for its third season, they might have to make the show subscription-only — even after switching to a new distribution deal with Blip.tv.. Even Unknown Sender creator Steven De Souza admitted that instead of paying people conventionally, his cast and crew worked for “profit participation” — with the exception of his sound guy, who insisted on being paid upfront and who, I would guess, is one of the very few people to make a profit from his involvement with Strike.TV.

The night was kicked off by the first episode of Unknown Sender, starring Timothy Dalton, which was part of the site’s original launch back in October 2008. But more recent acquisitions like Coma, Period and Mountain Man were showcased for the half-capacity crowd. In addition, there were some previews of shows to come, and it was announced that Strike had acquired The Goob, a Swedish-produced animated series that will be distributed, unconventionally, through the websites for country-western radio stations.

Of the ten shows that were part of Strike’s initial launch, none of them except Unknown Sender went on to produce more than two episodes; the sixth and last episode of Sender was uploaded in December 2008. Since then, shows have come and go — some good, some bad — but from an outsider perspective, no franchise player has helped the site secure the traffic it needs in order to be sustainable. “We can only get the exclusive rights to a show if we can drive traffic,” CCO Ian Deitchman said.

In addition to the Goob deal, international travelers can now watch Strike content while flying on Virgin Australia, and COO Christopher Barrett said that an iTunes deal is likely, though due to the amount of content on iTunes currently, it’s a deal they’ll only make if they can properly promote it. Marketing their content in general was a major issue for Barrett — the problem is getting the financing to do so, given that advertisers aren’t excited by the “ratings” they currently have.

The long and the short of it is this: Sure, it’s cool to see the man who played James Bond on stage talking about the freedom that comes with producing content for the web — even if he hasn’t been personally involved with a web project since 2008. But welcome to 2010, guys, where the reality is that said content has to be good, and has to have a real business plan in place. As Barrett admitted Friday night, “We don’t know what we’re doing — we’re just figuring it out day by day.” Fifteen months into the site’s launch, that’s not exactly what anyone rooting for Strike.TV wants to hear.

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  1. NEWS: DAYS, Matula, NPH, Richard, TORCHWOOD | Soap Polls Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    [...] Web series producers discuss shows at Strike.TV screening ANYONE BUT ME creators Susan Miller and Tina Cesa Ward said that their show is currently funded thanks largely to a private investor, but if they can’t find a sponsor for its third season, they might have to make the show subscription-only — even after switching to a new distribution deal with Blip.tv. [...]

  2. Peter Hyoguchi Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Dear Liz

    Thanks for writing about Strike.TV in your blog posting. I’d like to respond a bit to what you wrote.

    I can see why you think Strike.TV is stuck in 2008 with our repeated message of “up with artists owned and controlled web content”. Strike.TV’s message will always be the same – as long as it’s owned by screenwriters and not Big Studios.

    When the American Cinematheque invited us to have an evening at the Egyptian Theater, we were incredibly honored. It was a chance for us to screen for the public, friends and family some of the highlights of our over 600 webisodes – some older, some newer and some that have yet to be seen. Since October 2008, we’ve been releasing a new webisode every day, Monday through Friday and we’ll continue to do so for a long time to come.

    Yes, it’s true. Strike.TV was never been funded. Instead, hundreds of Hollywood professionals volunteer their time to keep our creative dreams alive. Since the crash, it’s been very difficult to find investment in a company where there has yet to be a profitable business plan. And as you know, YouTube, Hulu, Crackle, Funny or Die, My Damn Channel and the rest of the motley Web TV crew have yet to create a profitable business plan as well. None of them have broken even and are all living on venture capital.

    It’s a tough game out there. Strike.TV has cut dozens of deals that distribute our shows to Hulu, Youtube, Koldcast, Hotels.Net, Intercontinental Hotels, Virgin Airlines and a slew of others but those deals haven’t generated much of anything but paperwork and lots of time. Without the critical mass audience – without millions of dollars in marketing, it’s very difficult for people know we’re out there. That’s why our partnerships with radio and TV sydication is crucial to our future success. Maybe that will be the key to profitability, maybe it won’t.

    In our Great Experiment, hopefully one of us will figure out the Rosetta Stone of Internet Monetization and turn the tide so we can all be in business, not just in love. And yes, I’m still in love with Web TV and all it’s promises of creative freedom and diverse voices. Call me a broken record, call me stuck in 2008, but that’s what gives me a reason to get up in the morning and keep trying to crack this nut.

    Warmly,
    Peter

    1. Peter:

      I applaud what you are doing. Our productions are just like your situation.

      Let’s figure it out together. There has to be more than ONE way do keep doing this so that we can coexist with the other business models emerging. To exist with the rapidly encroaching big media deal, big money, big name stars, advertisers with briefs on what few shows will be made that they will fund as a singular business model.

      We are professionals too. Let’s joins forces as artists who deserve money without middle men. That was the promise of the web wasn’t it?

      We should talk.

      Tom Konkle
      Pith-e Productions
      Producer:
      Safety Geeks: SVI
      Invention with Brian Forbes
      The Archaeology of Comedy

      Lets find a way.

      1. That should read “There has to be more than ONE way TO keep doing this so that we can coexist with the other business models emerging.”

        Grrr.

        And ” deals that distribute our shows to Youtube, Koldcast, and a slew of others but those deals haven’t generated much of anything but paperwork and lots of time….Without the critical mass audience – without millions of dollars in marketing, it’s very difficult for people know we’re out there. That’s why our partnerships with radio and TV sydication is crucial to our future success. Maybe that will be the key to profitability, maybe it won’t.”

        DITTO.

        Tom

      2. Clarity is important. I want to be clear that KoldCast was very generous in that they picked up the entire negative cost of the show last year. Allowing us to repay our investment in the show.

        They are supportive of their content providers and responsive to our needs.

        Season one resides at KoldCast proudly.

    2. Thank you for commenting, Peter!

      Something I wish I had been able to fit into this piece was an acknowledgment of how very clear the Strike team’s passion for the space was during the event. It’s definitely something to admire, and the fact that the organization has sustained this long despite funding is proof alone of your commitment. I’ve been rooting for Strike since its launch; I just want it to step up and take more risks, which is the only way this experiment is going to work.

  3. Peter- Just wanted to say what a classy response that was. Being NY based I was unable to attend the event, but I wanted to say that your clear devotion to artists and the art they create is inspiring, whatever issues might exist in the current business model (yours or anyone else’s.)

    Ned

  4. I also think it is a very poor attitude on behalf of this blogger to ridicule people (like Strike.tv) who are willing to say they don’t have all the answers but are working on new ideas to figure things out. I personally think the Q&A panel discussions with the audience were extremely informative and inspiring.. and I also think that their plan to distribute their content through local affiliate television and radio stations is an extremely creative and promising idea to create a viable relationship between advertisers and their markets. I believe this blogger called it “unconventional”… which would be the one thing I agree with her about in her whole posting. It is this kind of unconventional thinking that will help develop the next generation of New Media business.

    Bravo Peter and Strike.tv

    Semmel

    1. THE TOP OF MY COMMENT WAS CUT OFF:

  5. Pardon my ignorance because I became a part of the show a little bit after it’s launch, but wasn’t With the Angels part of Strike.tv’s original lineup? Because it went far beyond 2 episodes in it’s first season. And I’m also curious as to why it wasn’t featured at this event, since it was one of the few Streamy-nominated Strike.tv shows.

    1. “With the Angels” wasn’t part of Strike’s original ten shows, which premiered Oct. 28. No clue why it wasn’t featured.

  6. Hi Liz,

    To clarify, WtA was part of the initial StrikeTV launch, and was included in the first 10 shows that premiered on October 28th. Thanks!

    Mary Feuer

    1. Hey, Mary,

      I thought its launch was delayed at least a week, but it looks like you’re right — my apologies. My confusion was down to the fact that I chose to wait and review “With the Angels” individually for some reason, and thus it wasn’t included in my initial review of the launch.

  7. Anyone But Me Plans “Web-a-Thon” to Fund Third Season Monday, June 14, 2010

    [...] this going into season two, at a Strike TV panel last December Miller said that she and co-creator Tina Cesa Ward were considering a subscription model for the [...]

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