The fourth season of The Legend of Korra will debut on October 3rd, and fans will not have to turn on their TVs to view it. In a move that shakes up the traditional distribution model, Nickelodeon has decided to distribute its popular animated series online.
The Legend of Korra is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, a hugely popular animated series that ran on Nickelodeon between 2005 and 2008. Avatar has a large cult following, and those fans helped Legend of Korra become one of Nick’s most popular offerings when it debuted in 2012. The show’s ratings, however, were harmed by the decision to rush out its third season, an apparent response to a leak that spilled a few unreleased episodes online.
Nick’s decision for Korra‘s fourth and final season (which will be titled “Balance”) is even more radical. As series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante Dimartino explained in a short video, the entire season will premiere exclusively online, with new episodes arriving each Friday.
In a way, this strategy is unprecedented. Networks have stashed shows online in the past, but Nickelodeon is moving one of its highest-profile shows to the Internet. It is betting on Korra‘s fans, who are theoretically tech-savvy enough to willingly stream the show online. Netflix and Amazon have released hit shows online, and it makes sense that Nick, with its army of young viewers, will be able to do the same.
There’s another, subtler reason why Nick’s distribution strategy makes sense. Korra is aimed primarily at kids, but it’s not necessarily a kids’ show. Instead, its mature themes also appeal to adults, and a recent Huffington Post article calls it “one of the best shows on television.”
This crossover appeal makes Korra a great fit for the Internet. As an article in Forbes explains, online video ads are believed to be more effective than their TV counterparts. “By moving online, the series can play to an audience old enough to appreciate it without harming existing advertiser relationships,” the article claims.
Of course, the Korra decision could be nothing more than a response to declining ratings, but let’s give Nick the benefit of the doubt. This is a smart move that understands the makeup of Korra‘s audience and caters to the manner in which that audience consumes media.