This December, the TheWB.com will release Rob Corddry’s Childrens’ Hospital. Sight unseen, it’s the best web show. Ever. Written and directed by Corddry and produced by Corddry along with Wainy Days‘ Jon Stern and David Wain, the series has a star-studded cast filled with Naked Babies and other notable names in UCB comedy working in a “Grey’s Anatomy with all of its sexual inappropriateness.” But the most satisfying aspect of the series might not be its actors or premise. When Childrens’ Hospital launches this holiday season, you maybe be able to watch all 10 episodes at once.
In an interview with Billy Parker at Gothamist, Corddry explains why he hopes to avoid the traditional, weekly release schedule:
“My goal is for all ten to come out at once. Because I really believe that people have less of an attention span than they do with television. Statistically, the first episode gets the most hits and the last episode gets the least hits. So I think people have the attention span for four or five episodes at once. They can watch the whole season in one or two sittings.”
Corddry’s convincing argument goes against conventional wisdom. Consensus says, “Make your online series short because the web is comprised of inconstant, ADD-ridden individuals,” but Corddry says, “BECAUSE the web is comprised of inconstant, ADD-ridden individuals, we need to give them MORE programming from the get-go.” Good idea!
In the fickle point-and-click world of the Internet, it’s a promotional headache to get people to return to a website week after week to view less than five minutes of content. Unless you’re going to constantly game views with cleavage-filled thumbnails, alluring episode titles, or sweet cameos, fewer people generally watch each successive installment.
So, if the hardest part of a web show is getting people to the site, why not release an entire series at once? If it means increasing views across the whole series, why not give viewers all the content up front? Creatives will be giddy because more people will watch their programs and, despite the possibility of a shorter shelf-life, won’t advertisers be happier with the added impressions?
I’ve never been convinced of the the online-video-viewers-have-shorter-attention-spans argument. I think that’s more a product of the quality of the programming than the seemingly frenetic nature of online video viewers (and studies are starting to tell the same story).
In hour long sittings, I’ve watched the entirety (or close to it) of series like Clark and Michael, Layers, and Jake and Amir and only wished there were more episodes. If the content is good, I’ll stick around
Corddry’s experiment with Childrens’ Hospital may shape the release of future series. But there’s also a chance it won’t work. Are schedules and appointment viewing just holdovers from a less efficient medium? Should web producers take a holistic approach to the launch of a series, creating immersive experiences like a studio would with a DVD? Or does that negate the benefits of an art form heralded as interactive and inclusive?