UPDATE: For links to everything I’ve written on web series, visit the web series page.
So my article in Businessweek on branded entertainment and the web series is finally out online! I’m just posting here to provide a bit more context, more than could make it into the article (below). The article focuses on MTV and Verizon’s Valemont and then talks about the market more broadly:
“Valemont, with its high-profile premiere and heavy promotion, may give a boost to a budding, scripted, Web-series industry that, in spite of notable early successes, has yet to find a sustainable way to make money. It also underscores how companies can use the gamut of media—including the Web, TV, and online social tools—to pitch brands and products to highly targeted audiences. “This really graduates the format to a new level,” says John Shea, executive vice-president for integrated marketing for MTV Networks Music and another Viacom channel, Logo.” ….
“The brands believe that Web series are a new way to connect with viewers in a more intimate and engaging way than TV enables, even if the audiences are smaller. Companies trying to get their message across need multiple platforms to capture the attention of a multitasking society that’s typically online or on the cell phone while watching TV. “Producers are realizing that old TV broadcasts only capture a small portion of the viewer’s total media habits, especially during commercial periods, and they want to gain more of a piece of the pie,” Kunz says. “This helps both ratings and also the advertisers, who are the real target of producers.”
One of the points somewhat absent from the article was a sense of scope. There are, as I say in my web series guide, probably hundreds, if not thousands, of web series, and while most of those are not getting funding from sponsors, corporations or websites, many are. Valemont, in my opinion, is just one particularly ambitious example of the kind of marketing and distribution that is happening in very creative ways online.
TV-web cross promotions are happening more and more in this space, although mostly, as the article notes, with derivative content (extensions of shows and key characters). NBC vigorously promotes its transmedia extensions on TV. Desperate Housewives has a short series sponsored by Sprint, airing online and during commercials, which isn’t bad; Psych, as mentioned, has one with Mastercard. (PS – Sprint, will you call me? You’re involved with so many interesting digital projects, I want to interview you!)
Also, it should be noted, if it wasn’t clear, I was talking about scripted web series, which are generally more expensive and probably more labor intensive than reality-based shows, like Diggnation or Rocketboom.
Anyway, I’m interested in seeing where branded entertainment is going and if the market for original online content will organize itself around it. Can sponsorship become systematic in a post-network era, as it was in early TV?