Is quarterlife‘s Heat Cooling Off?

The PR team for quarterlife emailed us a press release yesterday announcing that the web series had racked up an impressive two million views since its debut three weeks ago. Given the high-profile nature of quarterlife and its creators, we were interested in the numbers. But when we looked a little closer, the story they told was significantly different from what we had first thought.

What caught our eye in particular was the part about how quarterlife was “averaging a total of 250,000 views for each of the eight webisodes it has posted to date.” That’s impressive, and as it’s written could lead one to believe that roughly a quarter of a million people were following the show from week to week.

But upon closer inspection, the stats seem to indicate that audiences aren’t sticking around. Quarterlife is available on quarterlife.com, MySpace, YouTube, and imeem. Here’s a quick rundown of how each episode did on each of those platforms, except for the quarterlife site itself, as they wouldn’t release those figures.

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The numbers were pulled from the playcounts available through the quarterlife channels on each site as of the time of the press release. Now, it’s possible that the discrepancy could be made up on the quarterlife site, but series co-creator Marshall Herskovitz said those numbers are “fairly small.” So most episodes, even older ones that have been up longer, fall well below the 250,000 plays per episode.

When asked about the disparity, a quarterlife spokesperson said they were just trying to give an aggregate number because so many people were asking for the data. Herskovitz insisted I was oversimplifying the statistics, noting that there are many variables associated with the show, such as time of release, the amount of promotion, etc.

It’s easy to blame the promotion your show receives, but when your playcount drops from nearly 650,000 on YouTube for the first episode to just a little over 19,000 for the second episode, your problems go beyond marketing. People just aren’t coming back.

While quarterlife — which had the good fortune of getting picked up by NBC amidst concern that the networks are running out of scripted content as a result of the writers’ strike — may be able to pass a lie detector with this release (2,000,000 divided by 8 does indeed equal 250,000), it’s unfair to count the simple average when so much of that number is weighted towards the first episode. This might not matter as much on a lower-profile web series, but quarterlife was created by seasoned TV professionals with a strong track record — it was supposed to herald a new era of web content.

If quarterlife can’t keep an audience, what does it mean for future web shows? Maybe the web is a truly level playing field where old teevee experience doesn’t matter. Maybe it means people really don’t want to watch dramas online. Or maybe it just proves that you can’t take a failed TV pilot and recut it for the web.

Whatever it means, while quarterlife may not be worth watching, its stats definitely are.

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