“How Internet Networks Are Connecting Audiences to Web Series’” by Kellie Ann Benz

Jan 10, 2011 | Corporate Member News

Kellie Ann Benz

I had a delicious mocha break recently with a TV executive who told me that they’re looking at web series to develop, as web series.

While it might look like the world of entertainment is changing, surprisingly it’s not.

Well told stories with compelling characters date back to cave drawings. What is changing, however, is how we consume series-based entertainment. Netflix, iTunes, YouTube, Vimeo, bit torrent, blip.tv all get this.

So too does a new crop of web series platforms or ‘internet networks’ which have sprung up to provide a place for audiences to discover web-based programming.

But wait! Isn’t the whole point of creating a web series to remain independent of networks?

“When I first started,” explains Michael Flores, creator of the newest steampunk series WesternX, “getting involved with an internet network didn’t even cross my mind.”

“I wish someone would have asked me this a long time ago, I didn’t realize the value until recently.” Jason Leaver, creator of the family drama series Out With Dad said.

Choosing which internet network to go with does require some careful planning.

“Tweens and children are on YouTube so we weren’t sure we needed to be anywhere else but there,” Jill Gollick, co-creator of the popular tween series Ruby Skye PI says. “After some looking around, we’re now especially excited about our partnerships with Digital Chick TV and MingleMediaTV, networks with demographics that work specifically well for our goals for Ruby Skye PI.”

“I knew we needed some type of platform to help transport us to our audience, and KoldcastTV helped us do that.” Michael Flores (WesternX) says.

Is it a typical dog-eat-dog network experience?

“So far everyone I’ve approached has welcomed us with open arms,” Jason Leaver (Out With Dad) says.

So if internet networks are now becoming the portal to which these creating cowboys find their audiences, is creative approval simply shifting to a new set of development executives?

“Beyond the actual content, the promotion that a creator has done before and after does matter in our consideration.” MingleMediaTV’s Stephanie Piche admits, “But production, story and acting are our primary considerations. Always.”

“We look for broadcast quality, great production value and quality in all creative areas,” says Clicker.com’s Patrick Sullivan. “We also want to be able to recommend original web series to network series fans. So we need to be confident that the viewers of traditional series will enjoy these new series just as much.”

Which is exciting on one hand because it means you can make your show without interference, but scary in another way because no one is paying for development. So is this risk worth it?

“Total control was very important to us,” says NaomiTheShow’s  co-creator Jennica Harper. “Our first season is completely posted. Staying independent allowed us to make the show we wanted.”

The attraction of exposing their show to an even larger audience is exactly what appeals about going to an internet network.

“Because we owned every aspect,” Harper continues, “we also controlled the metrics which means when we approach networks we have the audience investment as proof of our shows appeal.”

So, if you’re thinking it’s time to approach any of these networks with your series, what are some beginner mistakes these networks want you to avoid?

“Forgetting they need to build a following while they’re in production” says MingleMediaTV’s Piche. “One example of a series that is doing everything right is Throwing Stones who’ve done a terrific promotional campaign.”

Clicker.com’s Sullivan offers a more technical to-do: “We’d recommend choosing one high quality homebase for hosting all of a web series’ episodes (Blip.tv and Vimeo are great options). It’s also best to keep this particular channel free of unrelated video. And, we’d recommend they reach out to us to make sure we’re indexing their shows!”

Finally, every single person I talked to echoed the same concluding piece of advice; start building your audience – by any social media means necessary – as soon as you can.

SIDE NOTE #1: for great industry insights, join the web series chat every Wednesday at 11 am PST on Twitter #webserieschat. Run by @slebisodes and @mingletvnetwork. It’s the best up-to-the minute weekly conference for everything web series. See you there!

SIDE NOTE #2: Adverse to tweeting? Then listen to the Indie Intertube, a weekly podcast about what’s happening online.

About Kellie Ann Benz:

Kellie Ann Benz is a columnist who (usually) writes about short film on the NSI website and also runs her own blog The Shorts Report 

About the National Screen Institute – Canada:

The National Screen Institute – Canada (NSI) is a non-profit organization with headquarters in Winnipeg. We are Canada’s national film, television and digital media training school for writers, directors and producers. Training is anchored in the philosophy that the best way to learn is by doing.

Contact us or see a map of where we’re located 

Our market-driven training programs have led to employment and successful careers for graduates by giving them a competitive edge. According to the 2008 NSI alumni survey, 96% of respondents are working in the film and TV industry.

  • Training programs are led by experts in film, television and digital media – they deliver workshops and seminars and mentor participants. 
  • Participants do not pay tuition fees or relocate.
  • Training is intensive. Participants train in one centre for a short period and then return home to work with local mentors on their projects under the leadership of the program manager.

Find out about all the training programs provided by the National Screen Institute.

After more than 24 years of training and with over 620 alumni, NSI continues to develop and deliver training to meet the industry’s needs. We produce works that:

  • appeal to Canadians
  • help advance careers that will grow the Canadian industry and contribute to the regional and national economies stimulating employment for the long term.

NSI leads in the design and delivery of programs that provide training to Canada’s visible minority and Aboriginal screen professionals.

NSI also commits to showcasing Canadian short films and providing professional development resources online.

Visit the NSI site here.

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