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:

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