Column: Old, New Media Linking Hands

Feb 1, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Can programming producers survive on revenues derived from Web distribution alone? The overwhelming evidence seems to say no.
Last week production shop Generate struck a multiyear television development and production deal to create scripted broadcast and cable series for 20th Century Fox Television, a move that helps Generate expand further into the television business.
The company has already established itself as both a Web producer, with online successes like “Pink: The Series,” and as an emerging TV producer, with shows like Comedy Central’s “Chocolate News.”
Adding a traditional TV development deal helps insulate Generate against the vagaries of producing for just one medium. And it’s clear that neither TV networks nor digital producers can afford to pin their hopes on just one viewing venue.
Cozying up to the old Hollywood guard seems to be an increasingly necessary step in order to thrive as a member of the new-media vanguard. EQAL, creator of the “LonelyGirl15” series, is crafting a companion Web program for CBS’ primetime series “Harper’s Island.” The Web show will be called “Harper’s Globe.”
Then there’s 60 Frames, a digital studio that formed a partnership with NBC last fall to create programming for NBC’s digital group.
These partnerships remind me of something that Internet comic Martin Sargent said when I interviewed him last summer. “If a TV network comes and offers me a deal, you bet I’m taking it,” he said.
TV networks and studios have deeper pockets, and producers need money to make their shows look good, whether they’re seen online, on mobile phones or on-air.
Also, TV networks can amass an audience, and the digital guys need that. “Sometimes we can’t provide that on our own, so we partner,” said Brent Weinstein, CEO of 60 Frames.
With decades of experience in marketing and financing shows, media companies have established best practices for distribution, advertising sales and marketing, said Greg Goodfried, one of the founders of EQAL. The benefits of EQAL’s partnership with CBS come in the form of marketing support and in the upfront production dollars. For “Harper’s Globe,” the network will drive tune-in to the Web show on-air.
“For us that’s a huge advantage, because I can’t buy that kind of audience,” Mr. Goodfried said.
The tradeoff is EQAL doesn’t own the underlying rights to the program. “We made a decision that it’s hard to finance your own intellectual property, so we are producers of ‘Harper’s Globe,’” he said.
Should we prepare a eulogy, then, for the Web as a revenue stream in and of itself?
Not necessarily.
“It’s not that the Internet isn’t enough,” said Tom Guida, an entertainment attorney with Loeb & Loeb who represents new-media clients including Comcast Interactive and EQAL.
It’s that every property needs to be everywhere. “You can make money with a Web series if you have advertising, but to maximize the value proposition you need to put the show everywhere,” he said.
That’s no different from what networks must do today. Networks are releasing their shows on multiple platforms. Digital producers need to do the same.
No one gets to play in just one sandbox anymore. We all have to get in each other’s sandboxes.


  1. What is the percentage of people who watch, say LOST on abc.com vs the percentage of people who watch it on TV? How well did Heroes’ web series do originally and how well is it doing now (if it’s even still going)? What is the most popular web based series online? How many have succesfully made the jump to television? How does the recession affect the growth of online media?
    It’s an interesting conversation, but there are so many factors that it’s hard to say one way or another what is going to happen, let alone what’s even REALLY happening now. Living in a new media area like San Francisco and being neck deep in new media vs living in the midwest or southeast also puts a different spin on it.
    Not sure what the answer is, but I’d like to have a better idea, so that I might know where to invest my time, funds, and interest!

  2. Us the web producers benefit from the old media distribution and reach. Old media get’s from us the new, edgy content. The web producers can adapt and change at the speed of the internet on low to no budgets, something the old media companies can not due. It is in everyone’s interest to work together.

  3. I agree with John. There are too many factors.
    There is a generational factor. Many don’t use computers as part of their life. My parents just got cable internet last week.
    Not all homes can get high speed internet.
    There is a tech gap. We need TVs like what was shown at CES that hook directly up to the internet. I don’t like to watch all my video content on a laptop.
    Measuring the true number of viewers can be difficult, which in turn can make it difficult to get sponsors.
    The attractive part to new media is the high quality content. Experts talking about a narrow subject is more interesting than a broad show produced to try to get as many viewers possible. Old media is trying to sell their high def content. Who cares about HD if the show is boring?
    After a few years when more people have access to high speed internet, and technology makes it easier, less people will be willing to spend $100/mos on old media. With networks like TWIT.tv and Butterscotch.com leading the way, it shouldn’t take too long. They understand online content needs to be what I want, when I want it, and downloadable to my device for later viewing.

  4. Daisy,
    The question “Can producers can survive on revenues derived from Web distribution alone?” makes a crucial assumption – that anyone ever thought it was possible to do so.
    Researching the Web show market internationally for our report series, as Futurescape does, casts a completely different light on the issue.
    The USA has seen the emergence of a range of well-funded Web studio start-ups, such as Generate and 60Frames. The availability of funding, plus a large domestic online audience, seemed to raise the possibility of bypassing television distribution completely and surviving from Web revenue alone. At least until the recession…
    For some people, this may even have had an almost ideological component, offering liberation from “the old Hollywood guard” of gatekeepers to prime time.
    Yet Web show production internationally has from an early stage been intertwined with the existing television industry.
    In the UK, there are virtually no equivalents of the Web studio start-ups. Original Web series are made by well-established independent TV production companies. Some of the super-indies, such as Endemol, invest in or buy up the niche Web producers.
    Interestingly, the money flows into the USA, too. British broadcaster ITV has a significant stake in Gemini Division producer Electric Farm Entertainment.
    And releasing shows across multiple platforms was established as a model by the Portuguese series Sofia’s Diary, which has manifested itself since 2003 in several countries as a Web and TV show, with transmedia extensions in mobile, radio, magazines columns and even books.
    The producers we talk to are looking to several sources of revenue: brand sponsorship, licensing the show or format internationally; and “old media funding” that will be recouped from future DVD sales, for instance.

  5. It looks like the pre-roll will be around for awhile, and it is the dominant one currently online. So if creators and producers want decent dollars in the form of advertising, then they need to produce video content that is “pre-roll worthy”, otherwise overlay, and post-roll ads likely won’t cut it.
    It will also be great when mobile ad revenues take off so there are more destinations for content to live and be monetized on.
    I think we will see more Web shows make it to the big stage that is now known as TV, but whether they can become a main stay or not has yet to be seen.

  6. Great post!

  7. I love the expression. Everyone needs to express there own opinion and feel free to hear others. Keep it up 🙂

  8. Love this blog, keep up the good writing.

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