If the first big explosion of web video centered around UGC and the second wave was all about comedy than the third was is drama.
MediaWeek has a good overview on the state of dramatic webseries:
“Among the more ambitious projects is Foreign Body, a 10-week, 50-episode, adult-targeted soap produced by Michael Eisner’s Vuguru (Prom Queen) that serves as a prequel to a Robin Cook medical thriller arriving at bookstores Aug. 5. Yet shows like Body face numerous obstacles, including the lack of established viewing patterns or creative formulas, along with a risk-averse attitude among some advertisers, who theses have plentiful options for placing video ads on the Web.”
In fact, “Foreign Bodies” has been basically a failure, racking up something like 1 million views over all episodes on all platforms.
SAI has word on another book-to-web series/promo experiment:
“Stephen King has long wanted to break free of traditional publishing, and CBS would love to show there’s some synergy between its oldest and newest media.
So rather than just release another scary story in book form only, publisher Scribner — a unit of Simon & Schuster — and CBS are trying a new approach: Convert an unpublished novel “N.” into a series of 25 video episodes distributed by CBS on the Web and mobile devices.”
You can take a look at a promo for that here.
With more regular TV shows being watched online and the quality of product rising constantly, it isn’t surprising to see people trying to tackle meatier material. While there is lots of talk about ideal episode length and the importance of hooks, the truth is the same as it ever was: if you don’t make a good show nobody is going to watch. The platform is secondary.
So, the word is not good for Michael Eisner run Vuguru and their latest entry into the high end of webisodic entertainment, FOREIGN BODIES:
“The first 9 episodes of the show, which started airing May 27, have drawn fewer than 10,000 views. YouTube has recently given the series a push, showcasing it as a “featured” video, but it’s still not burning up the charts: On Sunday, it racked up 43,000 views, but then fell back to 20,000 on Monday. To date, the show has genereated about 140,000 views, according to TubeMogul.” (via SAI)
Ouch. I have done better with videos shot on a whim.
Why has FOREIGN BODIES failed so miserably? Well, for starters, there was virtually no wide-reaching publicity. Over the past week I was able to find only 2 or 3 people who had even heard of the show and nobody I know has watched it.
I watched two episodes and I’ve got to say it was less than engaging. Sure, there was a hot girl and I think I saw a boob, but really, on the internet that’s not much of an offer. The story was sort of muddy as was the general tone.
But I still think it wouldn’t have been quite this much of a flop if it had some kind of marketing behind it. NBC would never launch a brand new series without a major PR push. And even then networks still fail all the time.
Why Eisner thought he could somehow beat the system and just start putting out average looking TV on the web with no marketing and think it would be a hit is beyond me.
I had a chance to watch the first 3 (of 50) 2-3min episodes of the Eisner-funded webseries FOREIGN BODIES.
The project is actually a very big marketing scheme for an upcoming Robin Cook novel based around the dangers of medical tourism.
Visually, the series looks like a nicely made-for-cable MOW. The actors are pros and the thing is shot in nice digital on location in lots of cool foreign locales.
The thing is, it feels so much like average television. It’s just a lot shorter. So short that it is hard to get drawn in, even with 3 episodes available. Maybe this is the sort of thing one waits for more of a resevoir of episodes before diving in?
This is certainly another step forward in terms of professionally produced online episodic video. It’s good to see more drama and thriller stuff, too. Still, this one doesn’t feel like a hit. The target audience isn’t clear and I fear the story itself is just a bit too dry.
Check them all out here.
(via SAI and Tilzy)
Vuguru, the Eisner-helmed company behind webseries Prom Queen and The All-For-Nots has announced plans for a new series (via Tilzy)
“Vuguru will launch a autobiographical comedy series this summer titled Back on Topps, featuring a “group of executives seeking to succeed Marvin Topps, the company’s fictional founder.” The series will star Randy and Jason Sklar of ESPN’s Cheap Seats and Super Deluxe’s Layers in 24 five-minute-episodes.”
So far, Eisner is pretty much 1-and-1 with the first two series. Prom Queen might not have made a ton of noise but it was successful and continue to strike remake deals in foreign territories. The word on All-For-Nots has not been as good, as far as I can tell. I see little mention of it in the blogs and can’t remember the last time it came up in conversation. I watched the first two eps and then lost interest.
Having watched a few eps of Layers and being fairly familiar with the twin Sklar brothers I have to say I am a little worried that this won’t be breaking any new ground in the world of entertainment.
Will Topps be funny enough and unique enough to draw a crowd?
Michael Eisner might have ended up in the world of web video by default after being (i think) pretty much driven out of Hollywood-proper but he’s certainly sticking to it.
Eisner’s company, Vuguru, was behind the ambitious Prom Queen web series and the currently running All-For-Knots.
He was speaking at Microsoft’s advance08 digital advertising conference in Redmond and had this to say about the big boys:
“I believe if the major distributors ignore this piece of the business, and make it hard for content producers to break even, make a little bit of money … they will find somebody like me — or somebody better-funded or somebody younger — (who) is going to create basically a portal … and they will be creating their own worst nightmare, which is another competitor.”
I certainly think he is right that the current budgets being proffered by the larger media companies are very small but they are in line with the sorts of revenue they’ve generated so far. In short time, there will be a few genuine web success stories and the major distributors will either buy out the succesful little fish or push them out by force.
The latest news on the significant webseries front is that some folks are spinning off from the UK Bebo webseries Kate Modern to launch a new Brit-set webseries for MySpace.
“Big Balls Films and Pete Gibbons will make a pilot of the UK-set I Love Chieftown drama this month, with a full 60-“webisode” series launching in mid-September.
The drama will be based in east London and follow lead character Jamie, an aspiring filmmaker, as she follows an up-and-coming band and its journey to make it big.” (via)
Well, it sure does sound a bit like The All-For-Nots, Vuguru’s followup to Prom Queen from the makers of The Burg. It is also another example of trying to find an excuse for the camera – something I think we are ready to move beyond in terms of webseries. Everyone doesn’t have to either speak into a webcam or cameraphone.
Still, it sounds like a pretty big production with a 60-episode order. I’ll certainly be checking it out.
Last year, Prom Queen made some noise for itself as one of the more substantial original web series put into the marketplace. It didn’t hurt that Michael Eisner was behind it. Now comes word (via SAI) that Prom Queen’s not done yet:
“Michael Eisner has been fond of telling interviewers that “Prom Queen,” his made-for-the-Internet video series, hasn’t made much money on the Web. But that doesn’t mean “Prom Queen” can’t make any money: He’s just sold it and its sequel “Prom Queen Summer Heat” into TV syndication in France and Japan for an undisclosed fee.”
I’ve been hearing more and more about sales of web content to the Asian and European markets. They love US entertainment (look at how well our movies and TV shows do) and some of the stuff being done online is actually more appealing since it is a bit more youthful and original.
Now that more people can create broadcast-quality videos for a low price the world market becomes wide open. Independent producers would be wise to begin exploring these markets, especially if you aren’t doing comedy. Genre travels much better than funny.