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TV’s Quarter Life: Crisis or Conversion?

January 23rd, 2008

Anyone catch the hour-long NBC press conference substituting for the Golden Globes this year?  Me neither.  While I admit I may have been more disappointed that I didn’t get to see what the stars were wearing than the fact that I missed the ceremony itself, but I think I was with the rest of the world in wondering when is this writer’s guild strike going to end? But more than that, I started wondering about the future of television shows in general, and what would happen if the networks and the writers never come to an agreement.

Are television series as we know them meeting their final days?  Will we never again see new episodes of The Office, or worse, never again watch a brand new series that has the potential to become the next cult classic?

My fears were quickly calmed when I realized that the future of our viewing enjoyment doesn’t actually rest in the single sphere of a television itself.  Actually, the next Friends or Lost may come in the form of an internet series that you tune into right on your computer rather than your television screen.

Want proof?  Just take the new hit internet series “Quarterlife.”  Brought to you by the acclaimed “My So Called Life” team of Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, Quarterlife is a web series made up of 36 eight-minute webisodes that follows the lives of a group six of friends in their twenties.  Originally intended to be a pilot on ABC, when the network turned down the show, Herskovitz and Zwick decided to try a different route to get their show noticed.  They revamped Quarterlife for the internet and started broadcasting on MySpace last November.  And guess what happened?  The show was an acclaimed hit—in fact it was so well received that NBC (take that, ABC!) has officially picked up the series, and beginning February 18th, NBC will begin airing the eight-minute webisodes as hour-long episodes.

And it certainly does appear that this business model could very well be the model for the future.

As the writer’s strike drags on, major TV networks have attempted to capture online viewers by streaming free full-length episodes on their own websites.  Currently, episodes from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are showing up on an assortment of sites, including  AOL, Veoh and MeeVee.   And according to the market research firm Horowitz Associates, the number of broadband users who watched full shows online weekly doubled in 2007 from 8% to 16%.  What’s more, traffic on Veoh.com, which recently sealed a deal to add MTV to their line-up, rose 24% during the last three months of 2007.

So Writer’s Guild, watch out.  Where there’s a will there’s a way, and it seems right now the way may very well the computer rather than the small screen.  And when you think about it, watching a series on your computer just plain makes sense in an age where you can watch internet video on your computer, iPod, iPod touch, heck, just about anything.  So while I don’t actually think that series television has reached its end, I wouldn’t count out the idea that the next series I get hooked on requires a mouse rather than a remote.

Posted Under: Digital & Social Media, Media & Journalism
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