Variety reports that YouTube is teaming up with a subsidiary of DreamWorks Animation — AwesomnessTV — and NBC Universal’s Universal Cable Productions to produce Side Effects, an hour time-slot-length TV show — but on the Internet?
TV on the Internet may not be crazy these days — how did you watch the first three seasons of Breaking Bad? — but original programming for the web is still a developing medium. It might be the wave of the future, and it may just begin with Side Effects. Of course, YouTube will have to compete with Netflix as a platform, which has the prestige aspect nailed down, thanks to personnel and projects in the manner of Kevin Spacey, Eli Roth, Jenji Kohan, Arrested Development, etc. Much as we love Felicia Day, her profile doesn’t reach as far as David Fincher, another one of these big-time Hollywood directors indulging in television.
There’s plenty of obstacles we could dream up to stand in this project’s way (BSG had a built-in fanbase, musicals don’t necessarily skate by on TV unless they’re Glee), but it’s more heartwarming to think about the paths this could open up. YouTube is a diverse enough platform that it could do well expanding into this kind of territory, and we’d never worry about it compromising what it — cat videos, as we very, very well know.
From the creative side, there’s never been a better time to be an independent filmmaker — ten years ago. Nowadays, all avenues are opened. The first person to use kickstarter to co-finance, with an actual factual cable company, a YouTube drama series that’s also available on VOD and later Blu-Ray Disc… well, they’ve seemingly won everything already. I’d like to see a great big cocktail of Internet services that take up positions along the development/production throughline.
But how does TV companies getting involved affect all this? If they help to set a standard, imprint a viewing methodology in the audience’s mind for full-length TV online, the indies will follow suit. And then we might see some additional interesting content. That’s a best case scenario though, and a good way to reconcile big business studios with the artistic temperament of broke people.