The first advertiser-supported web series was Scott Zakarin’s The Spot, way back in 1995. The fictional Real World-style show took full advantage of the Internet’s ability to draw in viewers on several platforms. The characters blogged before there were blogs, posted photos and videos, and e-mailed with viewers, who would discuss the show and give feedback on thespot.com.
With ZoomTilt heading to SXSW as one of eight Entertainment tech startups, it’s clear that the world of web entertainment is expanding. So much so, that most web series sink in the sea of series. How can viewers like you find content like ours?
Sure, there are The Streamys, The Webbys, and all kinds of Fests; but how do we find the shows of our dreams? With the Internet comes a wide array of niche audiences. Web series must break away from the streamlined Hollywood plots of preexisting TV shows by getting creative and getting weird. The key is to do what you can’t do on TV, by avoiding overdone plots and also taking advantage of the world that entertainment now lives in. Whether people are watching it from a mobile device, their computer, or their plain old tube, a web series will succeed when it is coupled with strong viewer engagement by offering “extras.”
This is a huge part of what makes web entertainment so enticing – the immediacy and interactivity of it all. People want it how they want it, when they want it. What if you didn’t have to wait and tune in next week ever again? Netflix has decided to see what happens when they release their own entire web series at once. This may work for Netflix, but for most independent filmmakers and small production companies, maintaining an engaged audience over time and spreading a series to several different social networking sites is crucial to the success of a new show.
It’s one thing when companies like Netflix and Intel launch online TV, but the bulk of web series are being created on a tight budget. Despite the cheap and quick nature of the Internet, a web series will only take off with an original and well-developed story line. Getting original ideas in motion is necessary. ZoomTilt reaches into the pool of independent filmmakers to produce fresh content for brands. Another collaborative website, The Republic, hosts the Reddit Comedy Project, allowing the audience to crowdsource the premises and rank the pitches.
In the words of media mogul Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message.” Sure, you can take a TV show and distribute it on the Internet, or take a web series and slap it on the television; but the success of web series today relies on originality, quality, and maximizing the interactivity of the Internet.