Web television in 2012 is a success, but is that success killing its creators? According to statistics compiled by the International Academy of Web Television, the digital television industry is valued at over $135 million in 2012 and is projected to increase to $200 million in 2013. This is a tremendous jump in overall value from last year’s statistics, which valued web television at $45 million with the majority of productions being independently produced and financed.
Web television is winning as many of us expected it to, but as these figures forecast a bright future for web series, they also tell a story of the end of independent online filmmakers.
It’s no secret that digital video networks are ravenously signing every talented or successful YouTube partner who has ever pointed a web camera in their face. The previously mentioned IAWTV statistics show that online video networks represent 60% of web shows produced in 2012. Of the more than 940 web series projected for releases in 2013, networks will be responsible for 80% of them. That leaves 20% of web series launched in 2013 being independently produced and financed.
It is becoming clearer as web television continues to grow that the future of online media will have very little room for independent digital filmmakers. Competing with the tremendous resources of networks and studios, independent creators have rapidly become the minority where they once were trailblazers and innovators.
According to the IAWTV statistics, YouTube is the number one destination for web series with over 29% of series calling the video-sharing site home. For months now, YouTube has been evolving their site to reward channels that promote longer viewing times and a deeper level of audience engagement. The shift away from one-shot viral videos towards longer more complex viewing strongly suggests that YouTube is working towards becoming a full-fledged entertainment network.
With the bulk of network-produced web series setting up shop on YouTube, independent creators may struggle to stay above the rising tide of network-style content hosted on a possibly network-style video site.
It’s not surprising that a handful of statistics can sound the death knell for the careers of online filmmakers. As it is with the entirety of the entertainment industry, the moment web television became a lucrative business, a corporate infrastructure was bound to pop up. As with every medium gone corporate there will always be an opposing independent force. But in the case of web television, it seems like that opposing force will soon be squeezed out of the industry they helped build.