Can the ‘Mortal Kombat’ Web Series Sustain its Audience?

By 04/26/2011
Can the ‘Mortal Kombat’ Web Series Sustain its Audience?

One of the tough things about online video is building an audience. It’s hard to get viewers with a billion places to click on a million different web sites to choose to occupy their time with your piece of content over the myriad other options available literally at their fingertips. And once you have that audience, the hard work isn’t over. One of the other tough things about online video is maintaining an audience. That’s hard work, too.

Mortal Kombat: Legacy is the new hotness in the web series world. And rightly so. The program combines Kevin Tancharoen’s superb directing skills with origin stories of kick ass mythological characters from your adolescence, with which you may or may not have spent far too much time perfecting finishing moves.

It’s not just me that likes it, either. A lot of people do. The Warner Bros. Premiere produced and distributed web series debuted on April 11. In two weeks the premiere episode is up to over 7.9 million views, 95,000+ likes, and 29,000+ comments. Those are fantastic numbers for a release, but has the series been able to sustain that level of viewership? Let’s take a look.

The second installment is doing great, too, but not as great as the first. In one week the view count is up to 1.8 million with 46,000+ likes and 11,670 comments. The third episode dropped today. It tells the story of how Johnny Cage went from Might Morphin’ Power Actor to Hollywood dropout and in less than 24 hours it’s up to 200,000+ views, 10,000+ likes, and 6,000+ comments.

If we only consider the first and second episodes we see Episode 2 accumulated 22% of the views of Episode 1 in a week’s less time. Despite that drop in viewcounts, Episode 2 has nearly 40% to 50% the likes and comments of Episode 1. So, it seems while fewer people watched Episode 2 a greater percentage of those people are engaged in the content. That’s good, right?

The numbers for Mortal Kombat: Legacy are impressive, connote a ton of engagement and interest in the series, and make the show appear like it’s able to maintain an active audience even after the drop in viewership since its premiere, (which is a phenomenon experienced by most web shows). But does all this mean the show is successful? Are these numbers meeting the goals set by the series’ producers and distributors?

To find answers to those questions, I went to Sanjay Sharma, Machinima’s SVP Strategy, Business Development & Business Affairs to talk about view counts and expectations.

Tubefilter: Mortal Kombat: Legacy attracted a ton of viewers for episode one in a very short time frame. Did you expect the series would attract this kind of an audience?

Sanjay Sharma: We weren’t sure what to expect because, as you know, the web can be very difficult to predict. We felt confident the show would do well as it’s exactly the type of high-octane action our audience loves and, of course, it’s such an established brand and franchise and the series itself looks amazing.

We knew we could drive alot of viewership, but the early numbers definitely beat our expectations. Each episode is great and we’re confident the audience is going to stay tuned throughout the rest of the season. We’re just getting started.

Tubefilter: Lots of web series peak in the first episode. Is there anything in particular or Warner is doing to make sure the series sustains viewers throughout all the installments?

SS: We’re both working closely together throughout the course of the run to maintain the early momentum. On our side, our network is busy promoting the series through our video programming, our channels, our social media and mobile devices. Our audience is really responding well to the show and the #s are great.

Tubefilter: How do you gauge whether or not the series is a success for you? Is it based on sales of the new Mortal Kombat game? View counts? Or some other metric?

SS: For us at Machinima, if a show gets great viewership, comments and audience feedback, as Mortal Kombat is doing, we feel we have a success. It’s not just views, though that’s clearly a key (if not the) leading metric, but we also look at engagement, comments, likes, favoriting, embedding, sharing etc. Our audience is extremely engaged — and that separates us from other online video brands and especially from television video brands — and when we see the audience get excited about a show, we’re thrilled.

Episode 1 of MK was the most watched video on YouTube when it launched — that’s a tremendous success and a testament to the power of our network, coupled with amazing, premium content and the YouTube platform.

We’re only three episodes in to the 9-part Mortal Kombat series, so it might be premature to ask some of these “Is the series a success or not kind of question?” but it’s good to get a baseline and sense of what the distributor of the series is hoping for early on in the game. I’m a huge Mortal Kombat fan and a big fan of this show, so we’ll be checking in on the series a few more times as it progresses. Stay tuned.