I'm Calling It: Web TV Series Are Officially Legitimized

Im Calling It: Web TV Series Are Officially Legitimized

Last week I wrote about the new Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series, which had just released its first episode. The director landed the gig by creating a fake trailer for a nonexistent Mortal Kombat film, which starred some recognizable Hollywood stars, and half a year later he was making his vision into a reality. At the time, I said it represented a bright future for web TV series. I might have been wrong; it might actually represent a bright present day for web series. Just one week has passed, but already Legacy has succeeded. More than that... it's changing the entertainment landscape right before our eyes.

Let's Talk Numbers, Shall We?

Episode 1 of Mortal Kombat: Legacy has been online exactly one week, and as of this writing has amassed 5,769,306 views. That's six million viewers... in one week... and climbing. Not impressed?

Let's look at television... specifically cable networks. Do you know what the most watched cable show was last week according to Nielsen? It was iCarly... followed closely by Pawn Stars (love that show). iCarly scored 7.3 million viewers, while Pawn Stars grabbed 5.9 million. AMC's The Walking Dead--heralded as a ratings success, and that cable network's highest rated show to date--pulled 5.3 million for its premiere last Halloween (the show averaged 3.5 million viewers per episode, with the finale garnering 4.1 million).

So, without having to resort to hyperbole, we now have a web series pulling as many weekly viewers as the top rated cable shows. That's astounding. Quick... name the last web series that got 6 million viewers for a single episode in one week. It's tough, isn't it? Because it's basically never happened.

Even if you compare against traditional network programming, Mortal Kombat: Legacy still looks to be in great shape. It's roughly halfway to 60 Minutes' viewer total of 13.1 million--and 60 minutes is a top ten show! Since Legacy's first episode is likely to remain online for some time to come, it could easily find itself in the double digits of millions of viewers.

Producers released the second Legacy episode yesterday. If you're curious, here it is:

What Does It All Mean?

It means that web series are legitimate. It means that the medium is becoming less important, while the message reigns supreme. It means viewers don't really care where they have to go to get content as long as it speaks to them and is of interest to them. It means we're going to see bigger stars than just Jeri Ryan and Michael Jai White signing up for web series (like Netflix's House of Cards with Kevin Spacy).

Heck... one day soon... we might even see a web series nominated for an Emmy.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves... that's still a ways off.

What Mortal Kombat: Legacy did right that too few web series do is appeal to a built-in audience. There are millions of people who grew up playing Mortal Kombat video games. I'm one of them. Even casual gamers have a familiarity with the property. And because it's been years since we've had a new game in the series, there is a bit of built-in anticipation.

Everyone's talking about YouTube's big push into original professional content, and how hard it's going to be to get television audiences to begin holding web series in the same regard as traditional series... and you know what? Maybe we're already there. Perhaps web series like Mortal Kombat: Legacy are already doing the heavy lifting? Maybe... just maybe... there are already millions of viewers who have already quit caring where quality content comes from, so long as they are able to consume and enjoy it?


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Posted in Internet TV
About the Author -
Jeremy Scott is the founder of The Viral Orchard, an Internet marketing firm offering content writing and development services, viral marketing consulting, and SEO services. Jeremy writes constantly, loves online video, and enjoys helping small businesses succeed in any way he can. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Christophor Rick

    you are such a fanboy. Episode two is just crap. It's a totally unnecessary 1:25 of recap which really showed garbage that wasn't really needed (since the only people watching saw or would go watch the first episode) and then 6:00 of lame, slow-mo content and a conversation between two characters...then like 1:30 of credits. Overall, they should have just put these two episodes together or simply cut the stupidly long fight scene between Jax and Kano so that it fit into one episode. Cutting it halfway through the fight and then having a 6 minute add on was just lame :)

    HOW IS THAT GOOD?!

    Honestly, this has nothing to do with online video. It has to do with marketing to a known variable which is a rabid MK fanbase that will consume whatever crap you throw in front of them. Remember that stupid animated series? How about the TV series? No, because they had someone watching standards of quality and each of them only lasted one season.

    To me, they have taken a time-wasting TV format and re-purposed it for online use, which is just not what we need. I don't need a 1:25 recap of a 9 minute video I just watched last week. It was just a waste of time. I felt like time had been stolen from me by the makers and then the rest of the so-called 'episode' were far from entertaining. Of the 6 minutes of actual content, 3 minutes of it was slow-motion video...something they obviously had to do in order to make the fight look good because in real time, they look poor indeed. Then, the climax of it all was something we already knew and a conversation that hinted at something else we already knew...LAME!

    If you're basing your whole premise on that...then it's all doomed to fail after just one season if history tells us anything about MK-based video :P

    Honestly, if that is the culmination of all of these years of online video work... tell Mark I quit because it's apparently all been a waste of time.

    • JeremyScott

      Ha ha. Wow. I'm no fanboy

      Well, nowhere in the article did I mention the quality of the video--good or bad. My entire premise is that a single episode of a series produced solely for the web is drawing viewers at numbers most cable networks would kill for. That's it, really. I have no arguments against your quality criticisms, and I don't think it's something to hold up as a beacon of filmmaking brilliance.

      I do, however, think it's time we start treating the web as a legitimate distribution method for original episodic content. Particularly if it's going to draw viewer numbers like these.

      • Christophor Rick

        I wholeheartedly agree with your using the Internet as a distribution channel and there are loads of places that are doing high(er) quality episodic content, generally in the 5-10 episode range that I visit from time to time. There are also some gamer leaning sites doing it but some of the content is just god awful.

        I think people need to realize that if they really want success, and don't have an easily recognizable brand, then they only have two things that will set them apart, good quality and good content. That means good dialog and storylines as well as production (like how I worked writers into that mix?)...

        :D If you want to read my more in-depth review of episode 2...check GDN, right on the front page... Only got 1/5th the views this time round and no flaming retorts...I guess they realized I was right :D

        • JeremyScott

          Yeah, you won't hear arguments from me about defending the quality of these Legacy episodes (though they're far better than amateur). Of course, I don't like a lot of what's popular on TV right now either. I'm just stunned at how we celebrate something like The Walking Dead for its ratings success, but then something comes along like a live-action, web-only Mortal Kombat series and it gets more viewers. That's worth talking about, I think. That's big news. I do wish they were a little better, though.

          Love your point about people who don't have a recognizable brand... they definitely have to hit high marks on quality if they're going to succeed. Legacy is basically succeeding primarily because of that built-in audience and recognized branding.

        • Christophor Rick

          Well you have to remember that The Walking Dead is on a premium cable channel and this MKL is free online. If you give something away free, don't you think it will always get more people to come get some? :) Plus, The Walking Dead is only available in the US while MKL is worldwide. I can't see TWD here, but I can go to YouTube for MKL. So what brands need to do is capitalize on that. Licensing of shows is still done across imaginary borders for countries but if they're going to start their own streaming services or license the content they need to think big picture and that is worldwide:D

  • http://twitter.com/shannonennis shannonennis

    Gentlemen,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your exchange! Thank you for the afternoon entertainment. Fanboying aside, this discussion is essential.

    Brands of every size in every industry in every market should be SERIOUSLY shopping for webseries content! The MORTAL COMBAT semi-success story is just the latest chapter in the evolution of "online TV."

    For example, "The Guild" is a very repeatable success story! Niche audiences are a potential gold mine. Microsoft and Xbox merely followed the online footprint of their audience, found a well-made, hot property and cashed in.

    I am Director of Projects at tellofilms.com, and our goal is to become the lesbian HBO. We are distributing original content using a subscriber-based model to support development, production, distribution, marketing, etc. Not just traditional comedy/drama webseries either! Last night we taped a game show pilot! We've got LOYAL, ENGAGED VIEWERS who prove to us that, time and time again, if you build it and it's DECENT, they will come...and give you money. Price point matters! We're not asking for more than the cost of a small latte per month of 'Premium Content.'

    Tello is ready, willing and able to activate its content and drive brand messages to our audience. I think 'the future' is just a matter of Brand + Content Creators = Audience. Just like they did with TV, brands looked for the audience they wanted to reach and paid for targeted exposure via commercials. Well, now they have to look for content creators and producers. I've got your fangirls right here!

    • Christophor Rick

      Shannon you know I'm also CEO and Editor-in-Chief at Gamers Daily News right? :) Oohh...and soon to once again be your neighbor to the north when I return to Milwaukee next month heh.

      • http://twitter.com/shannonennis shannonennis

        I know now, and d'uh on The Guild example then. ;)

  • http://profiles.google.com/minglemediatv Mingle Media TV Live Web TV Ne

    Believe it or not - web series HAVE won an Emmy in the past... http://www.hulu.com/satacracy-88 Satacracy 88 is the FIRST to win an Emmy...

    Jun 26, 2007 ... The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded its first Emmy statues for “broadband programs” this year to Satacracy 88.

    Yes, I do agree with your assessment on webseries being legit but they have been and will continue to grow and as more people look for videos beyond the cute kitty or jack ass humor, more will find good webseries with or without named actors to enjoy on any screen.

  • sanyox

    6 millions views != 6 million viewers. Unique viewers are probably 60-70% of that number, so possibly just 3.6 million viewers. And Nielsen numbers are one time events, that don't include time shifting or syndication. Try adding those numbers in. Given the production costs/salaries involved/union wages, not nearly as profitable as the top Youtubers such as Ray William Johnson, who also averages 5-6 million views per week with next to nothing production costs. At a very generous $5 CPM, episode one made $30k. A lot of money for one-men crew, not as much for Hollywood.

    • JeremyScott

      I'm sure all 6 million weren't unique viewers, you're right about that. But the Nielsen TV ratings take in a lot more than just the first airing. They factor in DVR viewings after the fact (for at least a 24 hour period). I know that doesn't make the two equal... but the Nielsen numbers are a bit misleading too, in that regard.

  • http://profiles.google.com/scruffybearpictures Scruffy Bear Pictures

    RIGHT!!... thus is solidifying my current project Safelight 19, which we are aiming as a web series.
    People tell you NO!.. It won't work but I have watched this and have read this exchange with massive interest and appreciation.

    We are ...(we being the cast, crew myself and writer) are self funding the first episode of a ten part series for web to gain interest and then charge a SMALL fee to watch this on a secured server.

    We are going to be blogging the event startoing May 1st to show how well/bad/excellent we are doing.

    This has been an inspiring page to read and one I am gonna take on baord and make this project happen.

    I thank everyone for the input.

    Catch up soon

    Darren

  • Bobby Paschall

    I hope this is fact, I am a film and television producer that is pushing towards the web. Mostly because I think it is the future, and I am tired of being behind the ball. Here is a link to my new show: www.youtube.com/onoursoil I hope I end up with 10 million viewers.
    -Robert Paschall Jr.

    • Derrick Terrell Williams

      Awesome!

    • Scott Sligar

      Sweet!

    • BrenApril McMahon

      righteous!

  • http://www.broadbandseo.com Jonathan Mirow

    Dude! Regional Emmy Award for "Advanced Media - General Multimedia" 2009 for our bad-ass live biker talk show, KickStartTV.com! Sitting on the self as I type...