Susan Miller and Tina Cesa Ward launched Anyone But Me in 2008 under the umbrella of Strike.TV, the new media distribution company conceived in the Writers Guild of America picket lines. Since then, Strike.TV has found a new partner in MetaCafe and Miller and Ward’s original web series about the experiences of Vivian McMillan (played by Rachael Hip-Flores) – a postpubescent girl who likes girls living in a post-9/11 New York State and City world – has thrived.

In three years, the show has uploaded 25 installments across three seasons (the last of which was partially supported by fans), which all together across all the show’s distribution outlets have accumulated nearly 11 milion views. Not bad for an independent web drama!

Now that Anyone But Me is a member of the eight-figure viewcount club, I thought it would be a good time to dive a little deeper into those numbers with Miller and Ward to figure out how the series got there. First off, I asked the pair if there was any one moment in the past three years they thought was especially significant in getting viewers and building a fanbase:

Tina Cesa Ward: Besides our initial boost from landing on AfterEllen.com in 2008, our numbers have continued to grow.  Our presence on YouTube has gotten stronger which has given us a strong steady view count daily whether we are releasing new episodes or not.  I also would think that the press and recognition we’ve received throughout the three seasons has contributed to our numbers growth as well.

Susan Miller: It’s never one thing. So many crucial voices rallied behind us. The first article Joan Lipkin wrote about us for ‘Windy City.’ Kate Clinton’s link to Anyone But Me on her widely read newsletter helped establish a niche audience in the gay community. The celebrity videos Zachary Quinto, Liza Weil, Eric Stoltz, Paul Adelstein & Hamish Linklater did on behalf of the show were great. And the talent of our actors brought them and the show even more recognition on the web. Every one of these contributions allowed us to stay in the game and build momentum. And staying is a slowly built, constantly attended, hard won thing.

Second, in case you’re curious, here are the views Anyone But Me’s received broken down by video hosting service. Note Anyone But Me was originally distributed via Strike.TV and Strike.TV’s YouTube channel. Also note blip.tv is AnyoneButMeWebSeries.com’s player of choice, as well as the embed of choice for high-trafficked sites that showcase episodes like AfterEllen.com.

On YouTube, Anyone But Me Averages about 175,000 viewers an episode. Again, not too shabby for an indie web drama! But that number comes down to a still very respectable 110,000 viewers or so per episode if you don’t take into account two huge ratings spikes in the web series’ catalog. Those spikes come from Season One: Episode 7 ‘Welcome to the Party. Now Clean Up the Mess’ (currently at 1.17 million views on YouTube) and Season 2: Episode 1 ‘The Real Thing’ (currently at 725,000+ views on YouTube).

The latter installment’s increased view count can be explained by its positioning – we all know season premieres of web series have the ability to draw some serious views – but how did the seventh episode of the series account for such a big jump in viewership, especially considering the thumbnail image isn’t especially risque? I asked the creators their thoughts:

SM: Honestly, there are always factors in the number of views we get that aren’t immediately apparent. Maybe it was featured on YouTube. Someone influential might have linked to us. In terms of what we hear from our fans, there are other episodes that I would deem just as popular. So, it’s kind of a mysterious combination.

TCW:  I’m not sure the numbers can give a true story on popularity, because an episode can just randomly be featured, but that aside it is the first episode we show Vivian and Aster together in a more intimate way and that no doubt had an impact on our audience who really have very little real images of intimacy to connect to.

SM: Well, just look at the title. I attribute a lot of its popularity to the emotional storms that run through it. The main character’s old life comes face to face with her new life. Relationships combust.

I have a different answer. Let’s call it the burgeoning It-Takes-Six-or-Seven-Episodes-for-a-Good-Independent-Web-Series-to-Build-Exposure Theory. Sure, the seventh episode of Anyone But Me may have been featured somewhere prominent or been linked to by someone important and that may account for the views, but if you remember, six episodes was how long it took hardcore fans Mortal Kombat to discover the Legacy web series. Maybe that’s just how long it takes to get the message that you’re an entertaining web series out to the online masses. (Again, this is a new theory. If you’ve experienced a similar spike in viewership or comments at the six or seven episode mark, be sure to let us know).

While we’re on the subject of acquiring hardcore fans, Anyone But Me certainly has more of them now than they did three years ago. As the seasons of the web show continue, both the number and percentage of viewers on YouTube apt to comment have significantly increased. Miller and Ward attribute that to exposure:

TCW: I think it takes time to build an audience, especially if you’re independent. And it’s taken time for us to get to where we are now in terms of our popularity. It’s not something that happened overnight.  It’s been a long period of constant growth in numbers that I can only attribute to longevity and content that people have connected to. Sometimes you just have to stick around long enough.

SM: We’re more visible. We have more press. Tina and I have appeared on panels in major new media conferences. Winning the first WGA Award for original new media brought us increased attention. The Indie Soap community also got on board and honored us with several awards, expanding our reach. The Streamy and the Webby noms certainly helped as well.  And we engage with our fans. So, word spreads and the conversation grows. Not many webseries make it to a third season, as we have, and with each season we reach more people.

Miller and Ward recently concluded said third season of Anyone But Me. I asked them what’s next for the series.

TCW:  At this moment, we’re taking some time to really think about what’s next for the series.  When we know, everyone will know.

SM: There’s a lot to consider.

While we’re waiting to hear when the acclaimed indie drama will be back, you can catch up on all the action and add a few more digits to those view counts at AnyoneButMeWebSeries.com.

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