Web series have been around for a while now, but for the most part, they've yet to reach the same level of esteem among audiences as their television counterparts. But as Internet-connected televisions and other devices continue to rise in popularity, the worlds of the Internet and television seem destined to collide: someday soon, all series might be considered web series.
This is why YouTube is putting $100 Million of their own money into the creation of original professional web video content--because they see the writing on the wall. In the future of entertainment video, it's all online... the TV and the computer become the same device, and traditional production houses won't have the built-in advantage of cable and satellite contracts to push their content to the top of the food chain.
There's big news in the world of web series today, as Warner Premier and Machimina have released the first of nine original Mortal Kombat: Legacy episodes.
You might remember Mortal Kombat: Rebirth--a viral sensation back in June of 2010. If you didn't catch it then, you can see it now:
Rebirth was originally suspected to be a studio-funded spec project, intended to gauge audience interest in new live-action Mortal Kombat content. And if that's the case, then it definitely worked: audiences ate it up, especially the core demographic of young males.
However, there was also speculation that this was just another "video business card"--a demo reel created by a filmmaker with a vision in the hopes it will bring more attention to the artist. And if that's the case... then it definitely worked, because now we have Mortal Kombat: Legacy, which reteams the filmmaker with the actors from Rebirth.
In fact, that is exactly what Rebirth was all about, at least according to one of the actors involved. From Joystiq:
Actress Jeri Ryan, seen in the short playing Sonya Blade, offered further comment about the project on Twitter. "It's not a game trailer," Ryan said. "Actually was made for the director to sell WB on his vision for a reimagined MK film." She said she had "No idea yet what WB's reaction to it was."
I think it's safe to say that WB's reaction was positive, because they turned it into a web series.
Legacy is directed by Kevin Tancharoen, who brought the world the remake of Fame. It stars Hollywood actors like Jeri Ryan (Star Trek Voyager) and Michael Jai White (Dark Knight, Spawn). And its production values are off-the-chart good for a web series. Here's episode one:
Mortal Kombat is a huge property, with legions of fans. And with a new video game on the horizon (no doubt timed carefully to coincide with the new web series), it's primed for success in ways that a lot of web series aren't.
Actually, it's done better in a few hours than most web series do in their entire runs: the video was uploaded to YouTube yesterday morning, and had almost 300,000 views by mid-afternoon (and it's still growing). That's a 13 minute video too, by the way... far longer than the usual type of clip that sees viral traction.
This can only mean good things for consumers and for creators of online video. Every time something like Mortal Kombat: Legacy succeeds, it becomes a proof of concept for web video content. Whatever stigma the phrase "web series" has carried these past several years will continue to be lifted more and more if this is the kind of content we can expect. Stars and directors will flock to it, and audiences are proving they'll do the same.