Online series creators urged to embrace video syndication model

To secure as broad an audience as possible, producers should go global and publish video on hundreds of web sites, rather than rely on one destination site (Chill's Marc Hustvedt pictured).

Digital producers looking to secure a growing audience for their original video series were urged Monday at the Stream conference to go international.

Larry Tanz, CEO of the digital studio Vuguru, told content creators to start outside the U.S. market if they have a scripted drama without a built-in audience.

Tanz recalled the 2010 web drama The Booth at the End that debuted on the U.K. channel FX before it was sold to Hulu.

“It did phenomenally well in the U.K., and then Hulu bought it for the U.S.,” he told a panel that discussed how to structure a video syndication deal in Santa Monica, California.

If anything, the syndication model for digital video distribution is expected to gain in importance as content creation and publishing continue to fragment.

“Yahoo! and AOL, as much as they’re big, they’re not as big as they used to be. There’s other platforms. There’s other people,” Ran Harnevo, senior vice president of TV at web giant AOL, told the panel.

His solution to fragmentation is hyper-syndication, or publishing video to hundreds of web sites, rather than rely on one destination site.

“You need to put your content and experiences on as many screens as possible,” Harnevo recommended.

Reaching out in original online series also means content producers partnering with distribution outlets, insisted Marc Hustvedt, head of entertainment at Los Angeles-based Chill, a premium content platform.

“For us, it’s about partners. Every great piece of content needs partners. We can’t do it by ourselves. The talent can’t do it by themselves. You need partners to help tell the story,” Hustvedt, who oversees development, production and distribution of Chill’s original specials, movies and digital series, argued.

He added the windowing for online content is different than with traditional media, but still entails a journey.

“We’d like to think it starts on a social web, via a Twitter link or direct-to-consumer transaction,” Hustvedt told the Stream panel.

But then as the audience for the premium content expands, a SVOD may become a partner, or a traditional TV network.

Examples are Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari, who first released comedy specials online, and relied on social media to promote them, before migrating those offerings to TV.

“These things started on the internet and moved through the journey up to Comedy Central,” Hustvedt said.

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