Stars producing their own online TV shows are rapidly taking Web TV into the mainstream, according to a new report from digital entertainment research company Futurescape www.futurescape.tv.
Futurescape, which focuses on the latest developments in the dynamic Web TV sector, today publishes the second edition of its research report The Birth Of Online TV. The report identifies three major trends in original online TV series.
1) More stars are launching Internet TV shows, often funded by major sponsors
2) Sound business models and commercial opportunities are emerging
- Digital download sales
- Major brand sponsorship
- Commissions from Web sites
- Reaching TV viewers via games consoles
- Cross-promoting other commercial interests
3) Web shows will break out across the entertainment sector as a whole Trend 1: Increasing numbers of famous actors, producers and directors are launching their own Internet TV series, with major sponsors
Futurescape co-founder Özlem Tunçil said, “In the 15 months since the first edition of our report The Birth Of Online TV, Web shows have progressed from experimental projects to become creatively and commercially successful productions in their own right. Web TV offers a new, more interactive medium for stars to reach fans. Futurescape’s reports explain the commercial models in online TV series and provide crucial insights for producers, actors, agencies, brands and broadcasters to seize the initiative.”
Actors, producers and directors with their own Internet TV productions include:
Trend 2: Sound business models and commercial opportunities are emerging
- Hollywood director Bryan Singer (X-Men) is reportedly working on a secret scifi Web series with a Lost-style atmosphere.
- Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City creator) has business comedy The Broadroom premiering in September, sponsored by Maybelline.
- Hilary Duff (Lizzie McGuire) has just debuted her new series The Chase on YouTube, featuring her fashion collection, Femme for DKNY Jeans.
- Lisa Kudrow (Friends) co-created and stars in the comedy Web Therapy, sponsored by Toyota for its Lexus luxury car range.
- Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) produced the superhero musical Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which was profitable from iTunes video downloads.
- Felicia Day (Buffy) co-created and stars in the Microsoft-sponsored online gamer comedy The Guild: a song from the show hit no.1 on iTunes music video downloads.
- Ashton Kutcher (Punk’d) launched celebrity gossip animation Blah Girls, sponsored by Vitamin Water and reality series KatalystHQ, sponsored by Frito-Lay’s Cheetos.
- Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) is backing scifi production Purefold.
- Crystal Chappell (Guiding Light) has created the new lesbian-themed soap Venice.
- Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) stars in reality series The Miley and Mandy Show.
Compared with 2008, the maturing Web show market is offering actors and producers a variety of proven ways to benefit commercially as well as creatively. Major advertisers are meanwhile increasingly appreciating how Web series can enhance a brand’s image and connect brands with specific demographics or communities of viewers online.
Trend 3: Web shows will break out across the entertainment sector as a whole
- Digital download sales: Buffy creator Joss Whedon self-funded the superhero musical Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog with a budget of $200,000. The production has been distributed online via the video aggregator Hulu, with advertising, and as a paid-for download via Apple’s iTunes, before being released on DVD. Whedon has said that the show went into profitability from the downloads alone.
- Major brand sponsorship: Many series are fully-funded by international brands from a range of sectors, such as automotive, cosmetics, beverages and clothing. Lisa Kudrow’s comedy Web Therapy, now in its second season, is backed by Toyota for its Lexus cars. Candace Bushnell’s new business comedy The Broadroom is sponsored by Maybelline.
Another advertiser that has recently seen the potential for Web shows to reach its consumers is Southern Comfort. It has completely dropped television advertising for digital and this includes sponsoring Web series on men’s site Break and video comedy site My Damn Channel. Levi’s is also funding original comedies on Break.
- Commissions from Web sites: Independent video aggregation sites Babelgum and Dailymotion offer deals to Web show producers such as new commissions, exclusive distribution windows and licensing whole seasons. Social networks MySpace and Bebo commission original drama, reality and entertainment series.
- Cross-promoting other commercial interests: Hilary Duff’s new series The Chase has the actor wearing items from her own fashion collection, Femme for DKNY Jeans.
- Reaching TV viewers via games consoles: Microsoft has funded two seasons of gamer comedy The Guild to provide original content direct to TV viewers for the Xbox 360 Live Marketplace. The show, also distributed via MSN and the Microsoft Zune media player, reaches a potential 14m viewers in 26 countries.
The Guild also demonstrates how a Web series can successfully break through into other forms of entertainment. To promote the show’s third season, the producers created a music video with an original song, Do You Wanna Date My Avatar, uploaded it on YouTube and invited fans to buy the song as iTunes and Amazon downloads.
Without a conventional marketing campaign or record label, the song gatecrashed the music download charts, going to no. 1 on Amazon MP3 downloads and no.1 on iTunes music video downloads, overtaking major acts such as Black Eyed Peas.
Futurescape co-founder Colin Donald said, “Felicia Day and The Guild Web series are popular with fantasy fiction and online gaming fans. Purchases via their music video overtaking major artists demonstrates there are real opportunities for other artists such as Miley Cyrus and Hilary Duff who already have large fan bases and also their own Web series.”
"Creating your own Web series gives an actor, producer or director a springboard to take the intellectual property, such as characters and storylines, across many other forms of entertainment, from music to games to books."
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