Online television guide The Futon Critic, launched in January 1997, is one of the web’s most reliable resources for information on broadcast and cable programming. But their coverage of the TV industry is about to take on a new digital edge.
Beginning this summer, The Futon Critic will launch a Video section that will track the availability of television content on iTunes, Hulu, Amazon VOD and other distribution platforms, expanding upon what the site already provides in the way of its Listings section, which does a daily breakdown of what’s airing on TV.
The section will focus specifically on television content, though according to The Futon Critic Editor-in-Chief and Futon Media CEO Brian Ford Sullivan, the aim is not to compete with sites like SetJam or Clicker that also aggregate links to online TV content. “We don’t see [them] as competition — this is just a natural extension of what we do,” Sullivan said via phone.
While the Video section will not include links to web-only video, there’s one important exception being made. Part of the Video section’s launch may include .comEDY, a three-episode web series now going into production. .comEDY, which takes a comedic look at the Silicon Valley dot-com boom and bust of the late 1990s, is being produced by Big Smiley Entertainment as a half-hour pilot presentation, but if it can’t find a home with a network or cable outlet, it’ll instead go online.
According to Sullivan, the genesis of .comEDY came from the Futon Critic’s dealings with advertisers, who included pre-roll advertising in their pitches. This was wasted on the site, since they had no original video content to apply pre-rolls to.
Sullivan admitted that “Selfishly, I’ve always wanted to graduate into writing,” so then “the question became how can we do something original that we can have pre-roll advertising on?” The answer came upon meeting production partner Big Smiley, which had been looking to do a network-level show on a web series budget. The SAG signatory project’s cast includes Big Shots‘s Jessica Collins, Roommates‘s Tyler Francavilla, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay‘s Amir Talai, and Alias‘s Kevin Weisman, and was financed entirely by Futon Media.
Sullivan is clear about his hope for .comEDY to find a home in the broadcast or cable world, but isn’t resistant to the show going web-only, and wrote the pilot so that while it functions as a half-hour sitcom, each act is self-contained enough to function on its own. He would also be interested in producing further episodes beyond the initial three if the series managed to find an online audience.
As an observer of the TV world for over 14 years now, though, Sullivan is still betting on the broadcast industry’s viability. “I don’t think the death rattles are quite there yet. There are enormous amount of money to be made in broadcast, and there always will be some form of ABC or NBC there — as well as some form of upstarts.”
The Futon Critic’s Video section should launch by this August — with or without .comEDY.
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