At the launch of the new season BFF, MySpace boasted about the success of season 1, saying that “we got over 6 million views” for the teen game show web series. We often report these numbers as the truth, given that there’s no real auditing of them and for better or worse they are technically accurate. But who’s kidding who?
Much to our chagrin, we noticed an auto-playing full episode of Jake Hurwitz-hosted BFF cranking away within the MySpace player tucked inside an ad unit on Jon Heder’s IMDB page yesterday. So naturally we clicked on it and were taken to episode 2 of the new season and saw an astonishing 595,404 “total views” listed above the video. Total number of comments (a good indicator of whether or not video views are organic)—9. Just 9 out of the nearly 600,000 people were moved enough to leave a comment.
If you take a closer look at the view counts on the second season so far it becomes even clearer that this show isn’t exactly pulling “millions” of fans. At best, these episodes seem to be averaging around 25,000 views. The show has just 817 subscribers listed on its MySpace video page.
BFF – Season 02 Episode 01 (8/24/09) – Total views: 515,711
BFF – Season 02 Episode 02 (8/27/09) – Total views: 595,404
BFF – Season 02 Episode 03 (8/31/09) – Total views: 52,158
BFF – Season 02 Episode 04 (9/03/09) – Total views: 24,717
BFF – Season 02 Episode 05 (9/04/09) – Total views: 24,405
BFF – Season 02 Episode 06 (9/10/09) – Total views: 15,550
BFF – Season 02 Episode 07 (9/14/09) – Total views: 12,798
It’s no wonder the advertising industry is still gun shy about backing original web series. In order to deliver on this campaign for lead sponsors Ortho Women’s Health & Urology and Proctor & Gamble’s Always brand, MySpace is forced to buy paid views through Doubleclick, presumably at a lower cost that what they are making from the sponsors.
To be sure, this view arbitrage game is getting more and more common in web video and MySpace certainly aren’t the only ones playing it. What it does unfortunately is devalue web series content into essentially rich media display ads, counted by impressions rather than actual viewer engagement. That sadly will be a race to the bottom as advertisers realize they can get a cheaper CPM elsewhere rather than funding original series.
We reached out to MySpace for comment on this and have not yet received a reply.
UPDATE: We heard back from MySpace’s Director of Corportate Communications, Tiffany Duersch: “We’re always looking at creative ways to introduce our content to new audiences. Making the original program available in this format directly hits those audiences who may be interested in BFF. We have done this previously. In some cases, the streams do count towards the overall views.”