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Technology: Network-Quality Series Developed For The Internet

Chuck Barney, of the Contra Costa Times posted an interesting article on today, entitled "'Quarterlife' ready for Internet debut".

According to the article, "Quarterlife", a series by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (creators of the hit TV series "Thirtysomething") is being touted as the first time a "true, network-quality series" has been produced directly for the internet.

Herskovitz is quoted as saying "It's a very risky, expensive gamble, that's for sure", and the article later mentions:

While each hour of "quarterlife" — at $400,000-plus — costs substantially more than the typical online production, the overall budget for the project is "way less than half" of a typical network drama. Also, the crew is much smaller, and they're forced to shoot on location because there's no rent money for soundstages.

I'll assume that an "hour of Quarterlife" refers to finished running time of the series. They have made (or are still in the process of making?) 36 eight-minute "webisodes". The article doesn't state their release schedule... daily? weekly? Either way, it's 288 minutes of finished material, which is 4.8 hours, which @ 400k per..... comes out to One Million, Nine Hundred and Twenty Thousand dollars.

$1,920,000 = 36 x 8-minute shows? Hmm... maybe I calculated incorrectly... Let me try it a different way. :D

How about if we break it down to minutes instead? :D

While each hour of "quarterlife" — at $400,000-plus — costs substantially more than the typical online production...

(60 minutes = $400,000) / 60 => (1 minute = $6,667)
(1 show = 8 minutes) x $6,667 => (1 show = $53,336)
(1 season? = 36 shows) x $53,336 => (1 season = $1,920,096)

Hmm... ok... Good... ~$7,000 / finished minute for a "true, network-quality series" being produced directly for the Internet. I, for one, will be *VERY* interested to find out what the ROI will be for this project... as will the Yahoo Videoblogging Group, where we often discuss the intricacies of and potential for monetization of internet video. I'm sure the currently striking Writers Guild of America will be paying close attention to how well this project is received on the internet as well... especially for this reason:

The "quarterlife" concept was conceived three years ago as a pilot for ABC. The network rejected it. Instead of bailing on the project, Herskovitz and Zwick revamped it for online purposes. But they're quick to emphasize that this isn't just another case of producers dumping a failed pilot onto the Internet.

If 'Quarterlife' works out, financially... that means an entire world (literally) is opened up to television professionals as an alternative method to put bread on the table or even to have entire successful careers based on creating online content.

Caroline McCarthy, a staff writer (c/net: the social), previewed the first six episodes of "Quarterlife" and is quoted in the article as saying:

"Obviously, it couldn't have come at a better time for the show," McCarthy says about the strike. "It might appeal to some people who are looking for something new to watch and are ready to change their viewing habits."
This is an interesting point, considering many people watch television from their computers already, and some people don't watch television at all, choosing instead to derive their entertainment from online sources such as web sites, aggregators and rss feed readers. If struck shows go into reruns, people may very well turn to online content such as "Quarterlife" merely to receive 'fresh' entertainment. While they're browsing 'the space', they might end up checking out Rocketboom or other daily- or weekly-produced internet shows.

Yes... This will be very interesting. I'm looking forward to finding out what a ~$7,000/minute internet series will "feel" like. We can already tell what it will *look* like from the video posted to the "Quarterlife' site. The show is scheduled to start on November 11th on MySpace, so "tune in tomorrow" for the jump-off, and let's see if a "true, network-quality series, produced directly for the internet" helps to revolutionize the online media and content creation space.

Bill Cammack • Online Strategy Developer • New York, NY • Chesapeake Beach, MD •