Fox Television Studios has quietly been syndicating a slate of original programming across the Web under the umbrella of its new digital brand, 15 Gigs. Unlike Warner Bros.' TheWB.com and Sony's Crackle.com, FTvS is not looking to create a standalone destination for 15 Gigs, opting instead to go the viral route and spread its shows as far and wide as possible.
“We want these properties to start building audiences wherever those audiences are,” says Emiliano Calemzuk, president of FTvS, a television production division of News Corp. “That is part of why we are franchise-focused rather than channel- or platform-focused.”
15 Gigs has set up shop on YouTube and Hulu, launching programs like When Ninjas Attack, Slacker P.I. and Singledom, with others rolling out over the coming weeks. Despite zero marketing or publicity, some shows are already finding viewers. When Ninjas Attack garnered 30,000 views within a few days of being posted on Hulu, according to Calemzuk.
FTvS is using 15 Gigs as a means to build talent and franchises, with the goal of sending programs that work to television or DVD. “It is really a part of our development efforts, tapping into a distribution technology that years ago was not ready, but now is,” Calemzuk says. “We [wanted to] start allocating smaller amounts of money toward the development of creative material we could launch on the Internet just to get a test, to get a feel for whether things find an audience or not.”
If a show works well online, it could continue to live there without immediately migrating to another platform, provided sponsors come on board. Conversely, if it finds an audience, the studio will pitch it to networks or release the program straight to DVD.
“The idea is for this to be self-sustaining,” he says. “In a sense, it is very Darwinian; those [shows] that are strong will find different ways of staying afloat and will continue to advance.”
There is precedent for Web shows to make the jump to television. Crackle.com took its series Angel of Death and sold it as a 90-minute feature to Spike TV, while simultaneously prepping a DVD release. Comedy Central also recently picked up Secret Girlfriend, an adaptation of a Web series from FremantleMedia's Atomic Wedgie digital label.
The grittier nature of the Web means FTvS makes a smaller investment than it would if producing a traditional television pilot, with talent often serving as writers, producers, directors and even actors. “Given that the investment is a lot smaller financially than it is on television, we can make those smaller bets,” Calemzuk says. “Sometimes some of [the shows] will lose a little bit of money, but some of them will make money to compensate for what we lost.”