Web series, independent media and emerging online markets: Then and now
This chapter explores web series as a maturing form of the online video phenomenon. It will look at web series networks as emerging markets with new cross-platform distribution, new marketing models, and emerging business models within a new industry. Although web series can hardly be regarded as a “new” phenomenon — the first original online video series came out in the mid- 90s — it remains an emerging market in 2012. The community has not managed to find a sustainable business model to capitalise on the potential and promise of cheaper production tools, rapidly increasing bandwidth, and the vastly expanding global online video audience. Nevertheless, there is reason for optimism from mainstream media, perhaps as reactions to growing success of the independent and entrepreneurial efforts in the web series community. This chapter looks at the potential benefits that online TV networks and dedicated web series networks offer for emerging content makers. It will show how they provide alternative and additional platforms to video aggregator sites like YouTube and, in turn, how these networks, and independent series and their creators are pushing the boundaries of emerging genres for mainstream media, on new and existing platforms. This chapter does not speculate too far into the future, but rather explores current and ongoing debates and developments, with a look at the historical progress of web series.