In an attempt to keep you from fast-forwarding through the commercials, networks are coming up with all kinds of schemes to keep your finger off the button during ad breaks. One tactic TNT is using is the branded microseries. The network just launched a new one called Lucky Chance, a high-octane, shoot ’em up with fast (Dodge) cars, a federal agent in her skivvies, and an incomprehensible plot (the video had autoplay so it’s embedded after the jump).
Microseries are just what you’d think they’d be: short, episodic stories embedded within the commercial pods of TV shows that feature certain products woven tightly into the plot. According to Linda Yaccarino, executive vice president of Turner Entertainment ad sales, advertisers like the versatility of microseries. “They can use them in a multiscreen fashion: TV, mobile, broadband,” she said.
Lucky Chance, for instance, runs on the network, which then pushes people to a Lucky micro-site on TNT.tv. Once the series is complete, the episodes can be bundled and repackaged for use on mobile, or be kept up online indefinitely.
Budgets for these microseries run the gamut, from $500,000 on the low end to more than $1 million on the high end, depending on the of series (though Lucky looks like it cost more than a million). Yaccarino said the budget breakdowns are similar in proportion to that of a sitcom and a drama.
And there are different production arrangements. TNT will produce some microseries, others will come in as pitches from third parties. Lucky Chance was a pitch by Full Circle Entertainment (an Omnicon Group company) and Espionage that TNT then shopped to advertisers.
TNT wouldn’t offer up any specific success metrics, only saying that viewers did stick around more for previous microseries like Love Bites and Commuter Confidential that the network has previously tried.
Though I’m not sure they’ll stick around for Lucky Chance. The series really gets in your face, and it’s jam-packed with enough stylized quick cuts to make even the most ADD-addled kid cry uncle. I would relay the plot, but after watching the first six episodes, I still don’t think I know it. A federal agent named “Lucky Chance” says stuff like, “Then it’s a roll of the dice…and I’m all in!” shoots some corrupt federal agents, all while being manipulated by a Speedo-clad, one-armed Englishman — but I don’t know why any of this is happening.
Oh, and in the first episode, the hot, blonde female federal agent gets half-nekkid and makes out with Lucky (a shot they return to over and over).
Microseries aren’t a bad idea per se, it’s just that the low-budget feel juxtaposed within a high-budget show is jarring and makes any flaws in the microseries that much more evident. They are better off being what they really are: webisodes.
Lucky Chance isn’t the only microseries TNT will be running. Blank Slate, produced by Dean Devlin (Independence Day), starring Eric Stoltz and featuring Acura cars, will run in September, and Yaccarino says TNT has sold out of available microseries inventory for its 2008-09 TV schedule.