In Depth

Column: Can Buzz Lift ‘Gemini Division’?

NBC’s high-profile Web series “Gemini Division” is technically in a “soft launch” until Labor Day, but the network already has stirred up a flurry of online buzz for the show.

It raises the question as to whether buzz is enough to carry the show for the long haul. The bigger question is what “Gemini Division” portends for the future of original Web shows backed by big media companies. Are indie Web studios to big media what clever, fast little mammals were to the dinosaurs?

First, let’s consider the online word of mouth surrounding “Gemini Division.”

A search in Technorati, a service that monitors blog coverage, indicates the show had generated 547 mentions in blogs as of Aug. 26. A Google blog search query reveals that “Gemini Division” had spawned 298 references in blogs for the week ending Aug. 26. The show also has been covered in media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Washington Post, USA Today, Wired and the TV Guide Network.

The show debuted online Aug. 18 and kicks into high gear this week. That’s when the network will release four episodes each week for the remainder of the run, compared to just two for each of the first two weeks, said executive producer Brent Friedman. NBC also planned to debut an alternative reality game for the show on Aug. 29 and to start promoting the show on-air in September.

The alternative reality game, to be housed on NBC.com, lets users uncover additional mysteries related to the series.

“This was always designed to be a cross between TV and the Web and a video game,” Mr. Friedman said. “We are trying to set the players on a course to uncover a mystery, so we are sending you on various missions related to the show that are sometimes ancillary to what the Rosario Dawson character is doing.”

NBC hasn’t released numbers on views, but the company said it is an up-arrow story.

“‘Gemini Division’ is exceeding expectations for its first few episodes in terms of viewership, engagement and the buzz we’ve been able to drive among a broad fan base,” said Cameron Death, VP of NBC Universal Digital Studio. “We’re encouraged by the viewers’ response and look forward to rolling out subsequent episodes and a deep interactive experience over the coming days.”

But now the real work begins. If Mr. Friedman and company can turn that early buzz into views, “Gemini Division” could become a breakout Web hit.

Or it could enjoy ignominy as the latest big-money-backed Web series to fail to capitalize on word of mouth.