Web series. Interactive series. Webisodes, Digital series. The landscape for television broadcasting has been set on its ear, and we can thank the internet for that. Web-based programming used to be reserved for quirky content, like “Rat Chicken”, which may have been too far outside the box for any broadcaster to be interested in. These productions would sometimes garner small cult followings but were hard pressed to garner large audiences. This is no longer the case.
Shows like “Sanctuary”, that began as a web series and was picked up by SyFy to be produced for television, are breaking down traditional broadcast barriers and redefining the rules of the game. Add to that, online content providers like Netflix, who not only make a variety of traditional content available through online streaming but are now also in the business of creating original content like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”, and cable providers have a lot to be concerned about.
Hollywood has come on board in a major way as well. Many stars who have historically been in front of the camera as part of the ingrained studio system are now bypassing the old way of doing things and producing their own full blown digital series, and they are being embraced by fans. At the same time, cable subscriptions appear to be on a steady decline as consumers are embracing online content in a big way. With an ability to watch what they want when they want it, at a much-reduced cost than traditional cable, online viewing has a gaining hold on content market share.
And the technology is readily available to make this happen in a cost effective way. If your idea of “cozy” isn’t gathering the family around the iPad for a Friday night marathon of your favorite series on Netflix, devices like Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast (which is expected to be available in Canada any day now) allow you to easily and affordably stream content right to your TV. And that is only if you’re one of the seven homes left in North America without some kind of web-enabled game console which also allows you to stream online content.
Major studios are obviously aware of the web threat and have been making efforts to engage those consumers who are being drawn to web content by creating web-only extras related to their broadcast shows. One of our own clients, “Rogue”, has produced web-only content for both of its seasons to-date and many other mainstream series are also utilizing the webisode as one of their standard marketing tools.
Audiences and awards voters are rewarding digital programming as well. Netflix has been receiving accolades for its original content with mainstream awards shows, the Emmy’s host an Interactive Media Awards, and the Streamy Awards are dedicated to recognizing the achievements of popular web-based content like “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” and “Husbands”.
It’s a new era for content creation and with more choices than there is time to watch, the viewer is reaping the rewards.
Written By Amber Woodward for The Research House