A web series is a series of scripted videos, generally in episodic form, released on the Internet or also by mobile or cellular phone, and part of the newly emerging medium called web television. A single instance of a web series program is called an episode or webisode.
While the popularity of web series is continuing to rise, the concept itself is not entirely new. Scott Zakarin created the first advertiser supported web series in 1995, The Spot. Broadband and improved video streaming technology has allowed independent producers to create low budget series distributed on the Internet. Recently major television production companies are using the Internet as a means of promoting their TV shows as well as developing specific media and shows for the Internet.
In 1995, Bullseye Art was one of the first web publishers to create what became known as webisodes. The first few webisodic content to come out of Bullseye Art included Porkchops, Internet the Animated Series and Rat Chicken. In 1998 Bullseye Art had a hit with Miss Muffy and the Muf Mob, which lead to a development deal with MTV. Bullseye Art also created Space Dog which gained popularity on Atom Films. The original Bullseye Art content can be seen currently on the Magic Butter web network.
In 2003 Microsoft launched MSN Video, which featured the original web series Weird TV 2000 (from the creators of the syndicated television series, Weird TV). Weird TV 2000 featured dozens of shorts, comedy sketches and mini-documentaries produced exclusively for MSN Video.
From 2003 to 2006, several independent web series began to achieve popularity, most notably Red Vs. Blue (created by Rooster Teeth). The series was distributed independently using online portals YouTube and Revver, as well as the Rooster Teeth website. The series acquired over 100 million views during its first run. Sam Has 7 Friends, which ran in the summer and fall of 2006, was nominated for an Daytime Emmy Award, and was temporarily removed from the Internet when it was acquired by Michael Eisner.
In 2013, Netflix earned the first Primetime Emmy Award nominations for original online only web television for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. Three of its web series, House of Cards, Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove, earned nominations.
Web television series have continued to gain in popularity and notoriety over the subsequent years. Some of the most notable web television series include lonelygirl15, MySpace Road Tour, Prom Queen, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Urban Wolf, Squad 85, The Guild, I Kissed A Vampire, Spellfury, The Legend of Neil, Red State Update, Dorm Life, Speedie Date, Fred Figglehorn, The Annoying Orange, Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy, Burning Love, Husbands, Kam Kardashian, Video Game High School, and many more. In 2009, web television series received their first awards show, the Streamys.
Production and distribution
The rise in the popularity of the Internet and improvements in streaming video technology mean that producing and distributing a web series is relatively cheap by traditional standards and allows producers to reach a potentially global audience who can access the shows 24 hours a day.
The emerging potential for success in web video has caught the eye of some of the top entertainment executives in America, including former Disney executive and current head of the Tornante Company, Michael Eisner. Eisner's Vuguru subdivision of Tornante partnered with Canadian media conglomerate Rogers Media on October 26, 2009, securing plans to produce upwards of 30 new web shows a year. Rogers Media will help fund and distribute Vuguru's upcoming productions, thereby solidifying a direct connection between old and new media.
The Webby Awards, established in 1995, recognize top web series in comedy, drama, and reality categories. In 2009, the International Academy of Web Television was founded with the mission to organize and support the community of web television creators, actors, producers and executives. It administered the selection of winners for the Streamy Awards, (which awards web television and web series content,) in 2009 and 2010. Due to poor reception and execution from the 2010 Streamy Awards, the IAWTV decided to halt its production of the award ceremony. The IAWTV followed this decision by forming their own award presentation. Tubefilter later joined Dick Clark productions to produce the 3rd Streamy Awards.
Events and festivals
Los Angeles Web Series Festival: the LA Web Festival has been the first event in the world dedicated exclusively to web series. The first season (2010) the festival awarded the series "ABIOLA'S KISS & TELL TV", "PARTY GIRL PLUS ONE", "DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM", "SEMI DEAD" and "SETH ON SURVIVAL" among others.
HollyWeb Festival: An annual festival and awards presentation dedicated exclusively to web series. The festival is now entering its third year (2014), and occurs during the first weekend of April in Hollywood, California.
Melbourne Web Fest in Australia will be holding its first annual all web series festival July 20, 2013.
Chicago Comedy Film Festival: Beginning with the 2013 Festival, Chicago Comedy Film Festival will accept web series episodes for a separate screening and award category.
London Web Fest is the first Web Fest in the UK and the first internationally to be created by an established internationally recognised film festival, the Raindance Film Festival. The first one takes place September 28–29, 2013.
Rome Web Fest in Rome, Italy, beginning in 2013.
Toronto features a prominent webseries community, with bi-monthly webseries meetups. It is also home to the IWCC-CIWC, or The Independent Web Series Creators of Canada - Créateurs Indépendants de Séries Web du Canada.
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