Even the big studios sometimes can’t find an advertiser.
The New York Times reports that in an effort to increase its presence in the world of original web programming, Warner Brothers plans to create 24 web productions covering a range of formats, including minimovies, games, and episodic shows. Only instead of finding advertisers to front the cash for production budgets, the studio will pony up nearly $3 million to finance the majority of the projects itself, and worry about obtaining ads to recover costs later.
Other than the wildly successful, dirt-dishin’ celebrity gossip and news site TMZ.com, and an announcement last week for the upcoming launch of “T-Works” – an immersive, interactive, entertainment environment populated by animated characters from Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbara, and DC Comics – Warner Borothers’ online offerings have been rather limited. ‘Hardley News,’ their only original web program thus far, aired on the all-but-defunct Bud.TV and was an unsuccessful attempt at the near-ubiquitous satirical pop culture show.
A few of the more interesting programs the studio has slated for production include, “‘The Jeannie Tate Show,’…a 10-episode series about a neurotic soccer mom who presents a television talk show from her minivan; a puppet comedy for adults from the Jim Henson Company, unofficially titled the Simian Undercover Detective Squad, follows a group of ape investigators;…a mockumentary titled ‘Viral,’ from Joey Manderino and David Young, looks at the dysfunction that overtakes a digital studio as it tries to come up with the next big online hit; an animated offshoot of “The Wizard of Oz”; and an online dating game produced by Lauren Graham of ‘Gilmore Girls.’”
Big Hollywood has so far lost out in the web video space to smaller upstart production companies that aren’t obligated to operate within the confines of a studio mentality. Independent houses like Big Fantastic and Dinosaur Diorama have already made a name for themselves with shows like SamHas7Friends (Tilzy.TV) and The Burg (Tilzy.TV) by quickly delivering quality, self-financed content and not initially worrying about dollar signs.
The web is still a very a new medium with an evolving landscape and undefined rules. The same time-tested methods of creating entertainment products aren’t necessarily going to work. Uncomfortable as it may be, in order to compete in this space, big studios have to try out a more indie approach.