A Year-End Look at Web Series: Getting Hotter As Money, and Viewers, Move In

I've probed the growing popularity of Web comedy and dramatic series, suggesting they were a growing threat, down the road a bit, to network TV series. All signs point to growing viewership for Web series.
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My monthly posts here on the world of Web series have proven quite popular so I'm back with another edition in a year-end look around.

In the past, I've probed the growing popularity of Web comedy and dramatic series, suggesting they were a growing threat, down the road a bit, to network TV series. Mashable is particularly useful in compiling numbers and rankings of the top shows.

Just today, the Associated Press is out with a major feature on new funding and a higher profile for Web series, as studios are buying more of them with the eye of turning them into features (combining the episodes and re-editing) for DVDs. Making a profit online is no longer so critical if they can go Blu-Ray down the road. That means more stars (at least of the B-plus variety) and higher budgets.

All signs point to growing viewership for Web series, with platforms such as Blip.tv and Daily Motion, among others, still going strong. Mashable concluded a recent Top 10 report, "Clearly made-for-the-web shows no longer have to live in the shadows of their studio-produced network television counterparts. We're excited to see the space continue to develop. Will we see new shows disrupt the status quo, or consistent competitors solidify their place atop the webisode food chain? Only time will tell."

Its November Top 10 found four shows with more than 9 million views each that month and the total for all ten at 76 million.

That AP article carries this news:

Paramount Pictures's digital arm is also backing made-for-Web productions that can make additional money in other formats. Paramount spent $1 million to $3 million making a horror movie, "Circle of Ei8ht," which began showing on MySpace in installments in October in an initial run through Dec. 8. The series had generated nearly 5 million views online -- which would rank it among the most-watched shows if it were on cable TV.

Here's a few other new developments:

--The New York Times earlier this month gave full treatment to the saga of Fred: The Movie, which has grown out of a teenager's YouTube series seen by 70 million in the past four years. The film version is written by David A. Goodman, an executive producer of Family Guy, and started filming in November.

--Well-known actor (Sideways etc.) Thomas Haden Church is starring in a new FearNet web series, Zombie Roadkill. He plays a park ranger who partners with a teen (David Dorfman).

--A series I hailed in one of my earlier columns, Crossroads Films' Old Friends -- Starring Tim Curcio and Nick Ross -- has been picked up by the Independent web and mobile video content platform Babelgum. It just started re-airing its Season One and will debut Season Two on January 10.

--Ashton Kutcher's canceled CW show The Beautiful Life: TBL has found new life online, as "Katalyst has scored HP as a sponsor and released the rest of the season on YouTube," TubeFilter notes. "There were only five episodes done (and two aired) when it got the axe. "What we feel like we're doing is creating, in some ways, an industry first," Kutcher told Reuters. "A show that couldn't find its legs on television, we believe can find its legs on the Web."

--Koldcast TV, which has released several good series this fall, wanted more exposure for its lineup at its regular channels, and so started a blog filled with news and fun features. Zoom: Page views went through the roof.

-- Ex-Disney honcho Michael Eisner got his Web production start-up Vuguru a multimillion-dollar capital injection from a unit of Canada's Rogers Communications Inc.

My son's second Web series, MacAwesome, proved to be one of the most popular of the autumn and is aiming for a rare second season.

Just this weekend I've launched the trailer for my own first Web series, "An Incompleat History of Rock 'n Roll." It will trace the past 60 years of rock, with special emphasis, fun anecdotes and clips drawn from my years as #2 editor at the legendary Crawdaddy throughout the 1970s. Watch the trailer here. Enjoy the Orbison, Dylan and Springsteen clips. David Wild of Rolling Stone, posting here, just picked it as "the most promising upcoming Web music series."

And don't forget to keep rocking, and watching web videos, in the free world.

Greg Mitchell is editor of Editor & Publisher and his latest book, his ninth, is Why Obama Won. He can be reached at: epic1934@aol.com.

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