Sometime I wonder if I post things just to come up with a Variety-speak headline.
Anyhow, just watched episode one of “My Alibi” on ABCFamily.com (see below). This was a pick-up for ABC of an existing show from Take180 which tries to elicit audience participation in the form of cliffhangers with resolutions that can be voted on.
The production value is decent and the casting of a 90210-alum can’t hurt but I am not convinced that this sort of simplistic interaction is going to be the hook for a webseries aimed at teens and tweens (or anyone else, really). Primarily, these interactions tend to hurt the actual story since so many alternatives must be conceived and, at times, produced, even if they aren’t the most satisfying or dramatic direction, due to fan interferance.
Instead, webseries need to find more innovative and immersive ways to get audiences involved OR create a passive story that is good enough to stand on its own. “MyAlibi” falls into a bit of an unfortunate gap between these two solutions.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
According to a post on NewTeeVee:
Regardless of how many ads were shown, 90 percent of ABC.com viewers continued to say they’d rather get the show for free than pay to get it without ads.
Why aren’t the TV networks releasing copies of their shows to pirate sites complete with the ads built in? While I do love my ad-free TV torrents, I tend to watch on Boxee even with the ads since there is simply no wait. However, I miss being able to download and watch the show on other devices or outside of a wifi hotspot.
I think most people would be perfectly ok with downloading a show with the ads built in. Sure, one could fast-forward past them but most people don’t bother, especially if the ads are short and varied.
Not only would the networks actually get to show advertisers an ever larger pool of eyeballs but they would be putting the pirates right out of business.
Just thinking aloud…
At this point, it is fair to say that there is a specific genre of webseries featuring actors with varying levels of existing exposure playing slightly modified versions of themselves.
The best of these, in my opinion, remains Mayne Street on ESPN.com, but these things tend to be pretty subjective.
This certainly isn’t a genre birthed by the web. In fact, most of these series owe a certain creative debt to “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Of course, with the relatively low costs of creating a webseries, many of these stars are free to basically do whatever they want without the pressure of creating a hit.
One of the latest entries into this genre is “Keith Powell Directs a Play,” starring Toofer from 30 Rock. A funny premise in which a (we hope) egotisically enhanced version of Keith Powell sets off to direct a regional theater production of Uncle Vanya.
Here’s episode one:
Unfortunately, it looks like this series is facing a problem similar to so many attempts at episodic online content – a massive dropoff in viewership after the first episode. In this case, on YouTube, episode one has been viewed just over 100,000 times. Episode 2 sees that number drop to just over 10,000.
This will remain the biggest challenge facing webseries creators both large and small – how to maintain an audience after the buzz of episode one wears off.
Those who answer that challenge will be the winners.
Let’s face it – it is not easy at all to keep an audience coming back for more. Even major TV programs, complete with critical acclaim and plenty of marketing, can’t make the cut (I’m looking at you “Pushing Daisies“).
For episodic web shows this can be even harder. Sure, you loved episode one of that new webseries but it was 3 minutes long and now you are suppossed to wait a week or more and then come back and check for episode 2. Not a very appealing proposition and a major reason, I believe, that many webshows fail to get out of the gate and see massive downturn in viewership after the first episode.
Now, a few of the bigger players in this game, WB.com and Sony’s Crackle.com are both releasing series with “full seasons” available for immediate viewing. That means, if you dig episode one of “Children’s Hospital” you can sit tight and watch all ten of them. Same goes for “That Guy” on Crackle.
It will be interesting to see what impact this has on overall viewership. Knowing all the episodes are there and waiting is a lot like having a good show stacked up on TiVo – you know it’s there waiting when you are ready to watch. Maybe you will watch just one episode or maybe all ten but either way you know they are there.
Additionally, by releasing multiple episodes at once we get to decide how good the show is, not just the premise, which is all one can really hope to get if there is just one episode to see at launch. It is, perhaps, too much to ask of your audience to commit to a new episodic program based on one 3-minute episode.
Hey, have you been watching that new webseries, “Lost in America” starring YouTube sensation iJustine? Well, neither has anybody else.
“After two weeks, the series had generated just 31,000 views across YouTube, MySpace and four other sites, according to web video distribution firm Tubemogul. The only reason they racked up that many is that iJustine posted episodes one and six on her blog, bringing in 20,000 of that total.” (via)
There are plenty of reasons why their numbers could be so low but, after watching just one episode, it becomes pretty clear the reason is that the series is a not very entertaining infomercial:
From the guys who brought us the best screencast webshow ever, “You Suck At Photoshop,” comes “Agency of Record,” a slick-looking new webseries over on MyDamnChannel and sponsored by Adobe.
Here’s episode one (it’s the only one so far…)
Vodpod videos no longer available.
A few questions:
1) Why is the first episode so long? Over 9 minutes seems like a lot to ask for a webseries pilot.
2) Why so industry-insider? Unless you happen to have a lot of exposure to the world of ad agencies (sadly, I do) you might not even know what these guys do until well into the first episode and then you will be left wondering why you are supposed to care. It reminds me of the great and short-lived Fox show “Action” with Jay Mohr – incredibly funny skewering of the Hollywood producers and agents but completely over the head of most Americans.
3) Why is there a 40-second opening credits? Even real TV noticed people no longer have patience for things like that. Get to the show. Fast. Porn is just one click away.
The show has really nice production value and a positive attitude but I can’t see how the setting or the characters will help build the kind of audience needed to sustain an episodic webseries.
There is a send-off piece over on NTV about the end of LonelyGirl15, a true pioneer of the webseries and one of the few honest success stories out there.
The question is, will we ever see anything like it again?
“There was an innocence and an excitement to the shows of this era that can never be replicated. It’s like the first season of The Real World: It was genuinely interesting because no one knew what was going to happen. The participants of every subsequent season (and every reality show that followed) knew they could get famous from it, so it became fake. Everyone knows that there is money, or a Hollywood deal, to be made on the web now, so there’s no sense of danger. The thrill is gone, replaced by a careful eye on playcounts, CPMs and creating a brand.”
I’m not quite as pessimistic as NTV. I think there will always be kids out there excited by the chance to just get their vision out there, to be thrilled by the sheer fact that they are being seen and heard. Will some of them be dreaming of Hollywood contracts? Sure. But plenty of others will just be dreaming up the next insane scene they can shoot and post with their buddies.