'Prom Queen' is the King Daddy of the Online Serial
Since the past few days seem to be 'serialized web shows' week, I thought I'd conclude with the biggest of these shows, which ironically, I just discovered. From the folks who brought you the indie Sam has 7 Friends, comes the Michael Eisner backed Prom Queen, an online mystery for the teen set. Utilizing a young cast and a heavy MySpace presence, Prom Queen seems destined to blaze a trail for brief online content mimicking a daily TV show. It's not microbudget, but as with feature films, we can all learn from the big boys.
Let me just say first off that these guys have the marketing angle zeroed. Not only did they have a deal with MySpace to post each episode there first, but each character (not actor) has their own page with additional content. You can add them as a friend and watch stuff not in the show, like video diaries. This adds an extra dimension to the whole proceeding that draws you into these "people" and blurs the line between what is staged and what appears not to be. MySpace lists over 8 million plays (!) and 5700 subscribers.
I don't know how much coin Prom Queen is bringing in, but they have some pretty sweet deals. They have ads for the upcoming film Hairspray at the beginning of each segment. You can watch the whole series via an Amazon Unbox download. The show is even available on cell phones via Verizon's V Cast. Someone really did their job well, proving that this stuff can work and be profitable.
I like the daily postings (and weekly recaps), proving they finished everything first. They don't offer a DVD, and the Unbox download was only available after the run was done. Maybe they were afraid people would buy the show, then post spoilers everywhere, but I wonder. I think people hooked on the show would gladly shell out some dough for the entire show, so they wouldn't have to wait for the next episode. Plus, only selling on Unbox seems limiting to those who want to watch on an electronic device. What about the millions who still prefer stuff on good ol' TV?
The original run of 80 chapters is over (ending with a cliffhanger, of course!), but will return in August for another "season". I haven't watched the whole show, but it is good and I will be catching up before August. If a soap/mystery serial can work on the web, why not any other genre?