The floodgates of reality series on the internet are undoubtedly wide open at this point. I wondered, back in March of 2010 when Hulu launched its first original—the unscripted If I Can Dream—if we were seeing the start of a web reality rush. It was after all, their ironically higher cost than say cheap scripted fare that had kept them off the intertubes for the most part.
Flash ahead to today, when Yahoo’s entire slate of seven new original series are all in the hosted or reality camps. The new entrants will compete for attention on the network against the daily newsy Who Knew? which sits on the top spot as Yahoo’s most watched original series of all time, besting out the previous topper, TV recap series Primetime in No Time.
One newcomer, Ultimate Proposal, is already standing out with an impressive 1.75 million views and 2,700 comments in just five days since its launch last week with its first episode (watch below). It’s an audience-conspirator format, where we are all in on the rouse in which an eager would-be fiancée devises an elaborate proposal for his (or her) spouse-to-be. Like say, a young artist Kenny creating a faux art show in a gallery twisting and turning its way to the payoff of one final masterpiece surrounded by friends and family all there to watch the teary-eyed ingenue get popped the question.
The series is unmistakably aimed at women viewers, and getting an arguably hunky—or so the All My Children fans have assured me—Cameron Mathison to host the series didn’t hurt the cause.
FishBowl Digital Studio—the digital arm of Vin Di Bona and Bruce Gersh’s FishBowl WorldWide Media—is producing the series for Yahoo, led by VP David Beebe, who previously ran the digital studio for the Disney/ABC Television Group. I caught up with Beebe to find out what drove the move away from the studio’s comfort zone of clip-driven originals like CuteWinFail.
David Beebe: “The great thing about FishBowl is that we’re an independent production company and both Bruce Gersh and Vin Di Bona give me and the team complete creative freedom to develop any type of programming that we like and that we think viewers will like. We’re not locked into only one type of genre or demographic. In terms of our content strategy, we’re currently focused on developing and producing unscripted lifestyle programming, but we’re also producing shows for YouTube like CuteWinFail, hosted by Toby Turner, The Potts, an animated web series with Dave Coulier and Richard Kind, and even a couple scripted series, which we’ll be announcing soon. At the end of the day, I think it’s important to focus on producing television quality stories, wether unscripted or scripted, that entertain, engage, influence, and prompt conversation with the viewer.
Tubefilter: Ok, but what is it is about proposing for marriage that’s so compelling?
Beebe: I think it’s one of those special moments in life that everyone can relate to and it’s a story that people can relate to and share with each other. With Ultimate Proposal, we’re helping guys put together unforgettable proposals, but I think the unique element of the show is that we’re able to capture the special moment and all the emotion that surrounds it. We have some great couples and stories we’re working on for future episodes, including a same sex proposal in New York.
Tubefilter: Is there a reason this show is living online as opposed to TV?
Beebe: Ultimate Proposal was actually developed at FishBowl as a television show first, but then Yahoo really wanted it as part of their women’s programming slate, so we redeveloped it for digital. The show could live on any platform though – we’d just make the creative smaller or bigger and adapt the story to fit the characteristics of the platform that its airing on. We were successful with Ultimate Proposal because our digital and television development teams work very closely in developing creative for all platforms.
Tubefilter: Would a TV step-up be an option for Ultimate?
Beebe: Absolutely. We already have the television format developed.
Tubefilter: Do you ever see scripted narratives coming into the FishBowl mix?
Beebe: Yes, and we’re in development on a couple of scripted projects, and I think we’ll start to see more and more of it take off online. We’re also seeing more and more big name actors understand the importance of digital. They’re following their audience and starting to engage with it thru original short form programming in addition to their tv and film projects.
The series has no doubt the sharable—’you’ve got to see this proposal’—nature to it that was proven successful by some wildly popular amateur YouTube proposals—like Matt and Ginny. And it’s that engagement factor, no pun intended, that has it walloping other originals in Yahoo’s lineup, like Blue Ribbon Hunter (66k views), Chow Ciao (1.9k views), Let’s Talk About Love (97k views) and even Joe Jonas in Your Friend will Never Believe You (770k views).
As for why the series so far is outperforming expectations, even for Yahoo, “it’s relatable, has emotion, people want to share and talk about it,” Beebe added.
My only gripe here is minor. The series is located in the “Women” section of Yahoo’s new Screen video portal. Woe to us hopefully romantic men who actually find well crafted wedding proposals entertaining, are we expected to awkwardly cross the gender lines just to find them?