With YouTube ever expanding into an entertainment goliath, web shows are quickly becoming the new standard for young creators looking to put out their artistic endeavors. With this, however, web content on YouTube has suffered an oversaturation of scripted content, much of it not very good at all.
While YouTube has had its share of innovative web shows, few have scratched the surface of becoming a cultural touchstone the likes of “The Walking Dead” or “Breaking Bad.” The reason for this, among many other factors, in part resides with the broad stigma that web shows, being seen as the stepchildren of network TV, are often amateurish.
With any growing entertainment market however, as money funnels into it, the quality of original programming will scale accordingly.
Leading the charge in high-quality, capital-backed scripted web shows is YouTube network Machinima. With a regular slate of beautifully produced web shows, Machinima is doing their damndest to reverse the brutal cycle that is the public’s perception of what web content really is.
Part of Machinima’s original content initiative banks on supplementary channel Machinima Prime — the home for scripted web shows flying under the network’s flag. In its short history, Prime has hosted groundbreaking web series like the highly-funded “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn” and the current star-studded black comedy “Tainted Love.”
To understand how Prime develops their premium content, I caught up with Ian Moffitt, head of premium content and general manager of Machinima Prime to discuss the network’s selection process and the future of scripted web shows.
How does a scripted web show get on Machinima Prime?
All of the shows we do are from creators who either have a proven track record on YouTube (e.g. Reckless Tortuga) in terms of subscribers and their own channel and have the creative vision that fits our audience with the ability to deliver on that vision (traditional, professional, or new creative talent), or those that have had previous success with content which deserved a bigger platform (i.e. “Good Cops”). In terms of the bigger game IP series such as “Halo,” those are more complex partnerships involving a number of parties and different business models, but they are the ones we know the audience is hankering after, and we will be doing many more of those in the future.
What type of content does Machinima Prime look for when developing scripted web shows?
Primarily our focus is to find great stories derived from known global franchises across gaming, movies and TV that can serve as tent pole episodic series and then build the programming schedule around them. We want content that is polarizing and inspires viewers to immerse themselves in it – action, completely unique, heightened realities, otherworldliness etc. This doesn’t mean everything has to be in space or involve aliens/monsters, but there is nothing normal about any of our shows. Much of our audience has built its narrative appetites through games, movies and TV with deep narrative and mythology, so we often talk about how our themes and approach reflect the brands that the Machinima audience engage with most. It just so happens that those brands that Machinima’s audience loves are also the biggest global brands across film, TV and games.