Like everyone else this time of year, I begin to wonder what the new year will have in store for us. Since this blog is mostly about new media, I will keep this post focused on what we might be seeing in the world of online video in 2009.
Over the past few years the focus on the web has been the incredibly misunderstood and misused “viral video,” a slippery slope that has taken down any number of hopeful entrants. We’ve also seen the rise and fall of the sketch comedy sites like SuperDeluxe and FunnyOrDie (yes, I know they still exist, but they fail to remain relevant).
Just in the past month or two, there has been a renewed, and stronger, push into original series on the web. Most notable, perhaps, has been Joss Whedon‘s “Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” now having a lot of success in a DVD release. Also of interest is the WB‘s “Children’s Hospital,” which broke some new ground by being a high-value production with name actors and releasing all ten episodes at once to what appears to be a healthy return.
So, for 2009, even with the economy in the crapper, I think we will be seeing more of the studio-backed sites giving it a go with high-end original webseries. Not only in TV becoming a dead zone for scripted entertainment but the relative cost is still astronomically lower than trying to get scripted programming on TV.
As a sign of things to come, I present the trailer for Crackle.com’s “Angel of Death”. Crackle is owned and operated by Sony. Expect to see something like this from most of the usual suspects. Whether or not it works is a much larger question. (via Tilzy)
Vodpod videos no longer available.
It’s already well known (among those who care to know at all) that much of Second Life is devoted to various sexual quirks and fetishes. Sure there is some other cool stuff happening there once-in-a-while but its the virtual sex that drives the core user base.
Recently, there was an attempt to open a virtual world for Muslims. This was quickly shut down after various haters invaded the world and basically harassed the crap out of the users.
Now, Sony is having to eliminate voice-chat from their new VR world “Home” because it was being used to harass female avatars.
It might be time to face facts – virtual worlds that have no directed gameplay element will quickly devolve into a lowest-common-denominator society. Maybe total freedom is less of a gift than it appears.
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.
Crackle is Sony‘s online original web video site that was launched last year to thunderous worldwide attention – oh, wait, that was something else. Crackle’s launch was actually only noticed by a handfull of Sony employees and friends of the content creators.
But that hasn’t stopped Sony from rolling out a whole new “season” of original short-form programming they wouldn’t bother trying to sell to a legitimate TV network.
“Crackle launched “season 2″ of its C-Spot comedy web series this morning. The good news? It’s dropped most of the dead weight from season one and kept The Roadents. The bad news? Most of the replacement shows still aren’t funny.”
Tilzy is a bit kinder, noting:
“So whether your a gamer, a wananbe-comic, a pretentious musician, or a chick in need of a date, Crackle’s got stuff cookin for you.”
While they do have a broad range of programming if you happen to be in one of those demos I can’t say any of it is something that would cause you to sit up and take notice, much less help spread the word.
As with so much web programming these days, none of these shows seem to have any legitimate marketing scheme and are likely to fall into obscurity long before anyone notices they aren’t all that entertaining.
The word from Variety is that famed sketch comedy group The Groundlings, have been hired by Sony Pictures to create 50 original web videos.
This is not particularly surprising since The Groundlings are a well-established group of funny people and are capable of producing high quality work. What is surprising is the claimed motivations:
“Sony is covering the production costs for the webisodes, the first five of which the troupe delivered this week. “We’re only limited by our creativity right now, which is to say not very much,” Fishbach said.
He said the goal is not so much to make money — the Groundlings is non-profit — but to give performers a wider platform for their comedy.”
Ok, I can see how this is a benefit for The Groundlings but how does it make any sense for Sony? Could they really not be thinking of how to make this profitable or have they figured out how to make it profitable for themselves but not so much for the creators?
Well, yesterday I was reading a whole bunch about the launch of Crackle’s lineup of original programming (warning: horrible auto-play) brought to you by Sony Pictures. Before I had a chance to look for myself, NewTeeVee posted a really excellent review. Here are just a few choice highlights:
“But let’s start with the name, “The C-Spot.” Oh, I get it. It’s a play on G-spot. You know, because it’s edgy. Yawn. Trust me: It doesn’t get any better from there.”
“…seems like it was created principally as a vehicle for the main character to take his shirt off.”
“It feels like it’s trying to be a mix between The Larry Sanders Show via The Office, and failing miserably to be even a bit of either.”
And a tiny praise…
“The animation is top-notch and the voice acting is excellent. The jokes are a little stale, but the delivery more than makes up for it.”
The NewTeeVee post is probably the easiest way to sample the fair yourself especially since the Crackle site is noisy and full of ads.
That said, it is a pretty uninspiring collection of entertainment. Speaking from experience, comedy is hard. It’s not enough to have one funny idea, especially when trying to tackle episodic formats. I think we are still waiting for the first truly great original internet comedy.
For just a second there is sounded like something vaguely cool coming out of Sony – full-length movies available over your cell phone. Sure, tiny screen but nice to have the option. Except, that as Engadget points out:
“It’s more the prospect of sitting in front of that tiny mobile screen to watch a full-length film without the ability to pause, fast forward or rewind. This is live broadcast folks.”
That’s right. Like HBO or Showtime, movies will just be playing whether or are watching or not. No control for the viewer. Oh, and it will only be available to AT&T customers.
Not that anyone will ever watch.