Short Sighted: Are short form ‘Webisodes’ the new TV Pilot ?

Web Series have been causing waves online for some time. The web format allows for more flexibility and relies on a good understanding of short form story telling.

With shows like Drunk History and Broad City making the leap from Youtube to our TV screens. Broad City began as a web series, following the lives of two women living in New York, in 2009 and escalated into a critically acclaimed comedy TV Show.

To make the jump from internet to TV, it seems a web series needs two main factors: a pretty die-hard audience and the support from a celebrity. In the case of Broad City Amy Poehler came on board as an exec. producer.

Australian web series ‘Starting From…Now?’ (SFN)  has been picked up as a TV show and starts airing in March.  The series was seen by over 20 million people and has had 4 online seasons since it began in 2014. When it started it had low production values but a focus on story and the relationships between its central cast. The Show’s producer and star, Rosie Lourde, said that web series are important because “Lots of actors are unemployed and figuring out how to make their own content so platforms like YouTube and Vimeo are an easy way of honing skills and everyone gets a boost,” One of the wonderful things about the web is that producers aren’t geographically limited when it comes to finding audiences and SFN is a great example of this with loyal followers from the US, UK, France and Germany, as well as Australia itself.


Short Sighted: Recognition – new Emmy awards.

“Our industry is aggressively, quickly, and creatively evolving the various ways episodic stories are told, Our Board of Governors felt that this expansion of short-form categories begins the process of ensuring that Emmy-worthy creativity will be rewarded, irrespective of format or platform.”  Bruce Rosenblum, Television Academy Chairman and CEO

Short form content on the web has never been recognised by the Television Academy but this year, things are set to change. The Primetime Emmy Awards have expanded their short form categories to further acknowledge the dramatic growth of the work by people in the creation of short form content.  They categorise short-form programmes to have episodes that are 15 minutes or less and the new categories cover a variety of genres including comedy/drama, animation, variety and nonfiction/reality. There is also a new award for Outstanding Actor/Actress in a short form series. 

“These category changes reflect the broader opportunities that emerging networks and distribution platforms … are seizing in choosing innovative formats that enable our television community to share stories in novel and entertaining ways,” Rosenblum said.

Although the award will not be presented during the telecast in September (it will be given a week earlier at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards) it is still a major coup for the short form.  They will be peer-voted awards which allow Youtubers and Internet shows to be seen as professional, legitimate forms of entertainment for all. There are already awards recognising the work in this area such as the Webbys and the Streamys (both open to public voting) but the Emmys inclusion of this category is a real signifier of the changing landscape of media. Youtube stars such as Tyler Oakley are already expanding into television and Netflix original series. Youtubers are becoming as important, arguably more important, than traditional stars and this recognition has a big impact because it means the Academy is actively interested in representing changes in the media landscape. Creator driven short form content is a major force because of its accessibility for young audiences.  

“While we like to say awards don’t matter or that we think our fans are the real award, this kind of external, institutionalized recognition always makes you proud and a little more ambitious. I think this will help people start to understand what makes a good short form series and what excellent talent looks like.”Kathleen Grace, Chief Creative Officer at New Form Digital