The upfronts kick off this week. It’s a time when the big broadcast TV networks announce their fall schedules (and get advertisers to pony up for them in advance). While fans await the fate of their favorite programs (looks like Dollhouse will be back while Terminator will not), we wonder what role — if any — web video will have during these network showcases and for shows debuting next season.
Last year, NBC (s GE) embraced digital programming by including a trio of web shows as part of its fall schedule: the Rosario Dawson-starrer Gemini Division, the controversial Fears, Secrets and Desires, and Salon Confessions. Gemini never really took off, Fears changed its name and its focus, possibly after catching the ire of the PostSecret fan base, and Salon has yet to air.
Networks have since chosen to focus their web efforts on extending established TV brands online rather than create original programming from the ground up. ABC (s DIS) all but shuttered its digital content creation studio Stage 9 and found its biggest success with an Ugly Betty online spinoff. The SciFi Channel says it has some original web content in development, but is best known for its Streamy Award-winning extensions of Battlestar Galactica.
The network that we’ll be watching most closely is CBS, which ran its high-profile web/TV show fusion Harper’s Island/Globe and has a partnership with new media production company EQAL. The TV show has been a dog for the network, though its online counterpart is getting more engagement than previous EQAL shows, which include web heavyweights like Lonelygirl15 and KateModern.
We also have our eye on Jesse Alexander, whose new show Day One was picked up by NBC. Alexander was a writer on Heroes (which had a number of web series spinoffs) and is a big transmedia buff.
Will there be more web video for the networks? We’re tuning in to find out.