Fox Television Studios (s NWS) is quietly rolling out a new digital arm called 15 Gigs (apparently a pun on “15 seconds of fame.”) While we weren’t able to get official comment from Fox, it’s quite clear what’s going on, given 15 Gigs‘ Hulu, YouTube (s GOOG) and Facebook presences.
The effort has so far produced six web series, with the latest one, a behind-the-scenes at a strip club called Tease, set to launch Thursday, according to its co-creator Micah Goldman. In at least the case of Tease, Fox has told its producers that they are treating the series as a TV pilot. If its three episodes do well online, Fox is committed to pitch it as a half-hour TV show to broadcast and cable networks, said Goldman in an interview with NewTeeVee.
Other 15 Gigs series include a brash talk and interview show called The Skinny: Fat-Free News (Tubefilter review), a scripted game show called When Ninjas Attack, and a wacky detective series called Slacker P.I. Each is an original concept and a significant production, though they are a little more raw than what I’d think of as television quality. Most available episodes have been posted over the course of this summer.
Digital arms of studios and networks have a pretty bad track record, and there’s no saying 15 Gigs will do any better. But it does have the advantage of lessons learned from Crackle (s SNE), The WB (s TWX), NBC.com (s GE) and other current efforts, as well as the many discontinued similar projects: SuperDeluxe, Runawaybox, ThisJustIn and DotComedy.
At this point, many networks, as well as online-only studios like EQAL, are shunning original concepts in favor of tagging along with larger franchises. Online TV juggernaut Hulu — which, like Fox Television Studios, is co-owned by News Corp — barely posts any web content on its site these days. You’d think Hulu would pump up the web series to make up for the summer drought of TV content. But that dearth of content should make it easier for 15 Gigs shows to stand out. (As for standing out on YouTube, that’s a whole different story.)
However, writing off web series as simply cheap brand extensions gets pretty depressing. What could give 15 Gigs an uplifting edge is if it’s able to break down some of the boundaries between web projects and TV projects. We shall see!