Welcome to the new age of online programming. Compared with even six months ago, a lot more of us are now supplementing our television viewing habits with online programming. We’re no longer turning to YouTube only to watch one-off amateurish clips that anyone with a camera (or iPhone) can capture and upload. Today there are businesses with professional actors and directors backed by millions of dollars in funding. YouTube in particular has invested over $300 million into original programming.
Until now, web programming has been the quiet kid sitting in the back of the classroom. But the past few years haven’t been without their shining moments. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, starring Neil Patrick-Harris and directed by Joss Whedon, etched its name into Hollywood history in 2008 when it was embraced as a cult favorite and even broadcast on TV last month. Lisa Kudrow, best known for her role as Phoebe Buffay on the hit sitcom Friends, also made the jump into web TV that year playing a therapist for an improv comedy series, Web Therapy. The show premiered reformatted on Showtime in 2011. But it was Felicia Day’s long-running cult “classic,” The Guild that first shot web programming into the spotlight.
Celebrity-backed channels like Tom Hank’s Electric City have not been the only original channels making big splashes in the press. There are other channels that have stretched the resources and creativity of what producers are capable of in this new format, making a name for themselves on their own merits. We took a look at some web channels that you should use to help acquaint yourself with the concept of original programming. One thing to note is that each series mentioned below happens to be backed by YouTube.
H+ took the online medium and re-imagined the way we watch TV. Episodes are broken up into short 3-minute segments that follow the story of a single character or setting. In this format, viewers are able to rewatch the series from single perspectives of select characters. Or they can choose to rewatch parts of the series that took place in Africa for example.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, a critically acclaimed web series backed by Microsoft and developed by 343 Industries leading up the launch of the game Halo 4, has been the shining star of original programming. If you watch the five-part series, you’ll be taken aback by the movie-quality production value and well-written script that satiates both the fans’ and non-fans’ expectations.
More importantly Forward Unto Dawn proves to the industry that original programming can substitute television programming. The numbers say it all. As of this writing, the first episode has garnered close to 8.5 million views since its premier last month. The second episode has been viewed 4.3 million times. Those are enviable numbers even by television’s standards.
The first YouTube Original Channel Initiative series to successfully “exit” and make the jump to network television was Everyday Health’s YouTube-backed web series, Recipe Rehab. The show now airs on ABC.
YouTube is no longer just a channel for watching cat videos and vlogs. In the years to come, your favorite shows just might be online-only series as the production value and scripts improve to the extent of becoming competitors with television programming. The series mentioned above are among those that are paving the way to substitute our television programming with original online programming.
To learn more about YouTube and why they're betting on original programming, catch "What You Don’t Know About YouTube (And How It Will Change Your Media Plan)" at ad:tech NY Thursday, Nov. 8 at 2:45 p.m.
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