So, no less a personnage than CSI creator Anthony E. Freakin’ Zuiker thinks the future of video entertainment lies with web video. He is so convinced of it that he has invested a tidy $6 million in, CYBERGEDDON, a 9-episode series that debuted on Yahoo Screen the first week in October, with multiple hints that CYBERGEDDON 2 is in the works. But is it any good?
In a word: Yes.
So far I have watched the first episode and about half of the second. Each episode is 10 minutes long. Connectivity issues interrupted my viewing of the second episode, but I WILL watch the whole thing. In addition to the 90 minutes of episodes, there are another 48+ minutes in what he calls ZIPS, one minute videos that inform the back stories of the main characters.
The series stars Missy Peregrym (ROOKIE BLUE), Kick Gury (an Aussie of some repute), Manny Montana, and Olivier Martinez (a French actor). IMDB credits both Miles Chapman (“ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL” and the upcoming “THE TOMB”, now in post-production) and Mr. Zuiker as writers, but some of the PR pieces (more on this later) mention only Chapman as the writer.
As far as I’m concerned this series is as good as, or better than, anything on legacy TV these days. Production values are through the roof, and the editing (Jordan Krug) is first rate. His split screen work is as good as it comes: not too much, and what there is really catches the eye.
How is it doing? I have no idea. Unlike You Tube, Yahoo doesn’t, so far as I know, list the number of views. But I suspect that it isn’t as well known as it should be. Why? I blame the Legacy Promotion that launched this series and continues to this day. I see an almost complete lack of understanding of New Media Promotion.
Just before launch, they had a traditional Hollywood Premier, followed up with articles in the NY Times, the LA Times, and Salon.com. IMHO, nothing there that would bring in large numbers of web-dwellers. I had a conversation about this with LB on the New Media section of the TVWriter™ Message Board under Web Series. Basically he advised: do as Felicia Day does. (There was, of course, more, but you need to read the post for that!)
They do have a FB page, but I see little effort toward engaging the fans that post there. Queries as to the plans for a second “season” were met with a canned blurb, exactly the same each time. Other comments were met by stony silence. Whatever PR firm is running the FB page would post questions, i.e., “where should AEZ’s next series take place”, and other questions designed to draw out the fans, getting from 20 to 50 comments.
Where they failed was in the response: NONE! Not one of the comments garnered a response from the Cybergeddoners. That is not the way to engage your fans. In the words of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” (google it!), marketing is a conversation. Conversations require full-duplex communication. From my own experience, if you want to drive traffic, you have to respond to comments.
CYBERGEDDON also has a Twitter account (with hash-tags #cybergeddon, #thereisnoesc) that shows the same lack of understanding of the use of social networks as does the FB page. What little activity they was, including a “Twitter Party” on Oct 4, was only one way.
AEZ does, however, recognize that he is blazing a new trail here. He has said on more than one occasion that he doesn’t know what works yet, but he intends to find out.
What does this mean to those who hope to work in the TV/video/web field? It means keep writing! Write, submit, write, submit. The future here belongs not to those who sit and wait for the field to mature (with the kind of series now being produced, it will mature, though the exact form is still up in the air), but to the pioneers who go out and put it on the line, risking the inevitable arrows that will appear in their backs (Josh Hudson, this means you! As LB says, take a bow.)
As LB also says (he talks a lot), right now the web series field is the Wild West. This field is a BIG part of the future, and like the Wild West, the Big Dogs a few years from now will be the ones that establish a small presence now and keep an eye on how things develop, adapting as they change. And they will change. So get in now; the barrier to entry will only get higher.