In my post yesterday entitled "The Future of Online Video, From Someone Who Should Know,” we took a look at a post by Google's Director of Product Management Shishir Mehrotra that laid out four ways that online video is currently evolving right before our eyes. One of those evolutions was the surge in creative video content from brands.
With the rise of online video—and the audience engagement it can bring—we're seeing more and more advertisers forge ahead into new territory as content producers. Ads are now destination content, and it's showing in the kinds of videos brands are putting out.
Mehrotra also suggests that it's time to drop the word "online" from the phrase "online video”—that, with the emergence of Google TV and its competitors, we're looking at a near future where the audience doesn't care where the content originates. They will be able to access web video on their TV, and TV video on their laptop. So soon enough, video will just be video.
I would like to add to that thought a bit, and suggest that we might soon see a day when we can similarly drop the word "branded" from the phrase "branded online video.” As more advertisers veer from traditional television commercials to producing their own entertainment content, there's going to be less and less of a need to differentiate whether a particular popular clip came from a YouTube star, a brand, or a complete unknown. (After all, we're all "brands" anyway, if you think about it).
Today I read in the Hollywood Reporter about a new web series that seems to support this theory. The series, called Suite 7, is funded by the Better Sleep Council, which is "the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.” The ISPA, according to their website, is "the international trade association representing the mattress industry.” So, in laymen's terms, this web series will be funded by the mattress industry—or, by brands.
And they've already lined up a pretty impressive cast of Hollywood regulars to star in the series, such as Milo Ventimiglia (from Heroes and Rocky Balboa), Craig Bierko (TV's Damages, and a host of films such as Cinderella Man), Shannen Doherty (of Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed), Illeana Douglas (Entourage and numerous films including Grace of My Heart), & Brian Austin Green (also famous for 90210 as well as other shows).
That's a pretty impressive list of names for a web series, and the Reporter suggests this could be a sign that Hollywood is embracing online video as a medium equal to television and film. And they're not just signing up to act in the series—Bierko and Douglas will serve as writers, while Ventimiglia and Doherty will each direct episodes.
Of course, the content will need to be great. The show, produced by CJP Digital Media, sounds like it will feature a revolving door of guest characters. From the article:
"Each week, the web series will see a new couple — newlyweds, divorcing couples, best friends, business partners, co-workers or even total strangers — check into Suite 7 and unpack personal baggage.”
That sounds… honestly like it could go either way. But I'm hoping for the best here. I am a huge fan of branded content—in part because brands typically have more money and resources to help create great video product. I want to see more of this, and I think we will… even if Suite 7 flops.
There have been plenty of web series that have landed a name actor or two, but this is as impressive a list of names as I've seen for something that is intended for online audiences only. Could this be a sign that Hollywood is growing more open to web content as a destination medium? We could very well be headed for a day in the near future when there are so many brands are creating great online video content that we no longer feel compelled to even label it as "branded video”… it'll just be video, sitting right alongside video content created by studios, established web stars, and the complete unknowns.
Suite 7 will launch December 17th on MyLifetime.com.