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Quarterlife loses one

Quarterlife_logo*Updated* Silicon Valley Insider is reporting that quarterlife, the video series that jumped from MySpace to NBC, is heading to cable after one disastrous broadcast. The show's fate is a reminder of how tough it is to take programming from the Web to broadcast TV, and how illusory it is to view the Internet as the TV networks' D-league.

You might say the series creators -- Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the team behind "thirtysomething" and "My So-Called Life" -- hit for the cycle (to use a different sports cliche). The project started off with a successful pitch to ABC, which ordered a pilot episode but then declined to pick up the series. Then Zwick and Herskovitz decided to carve up the hour-long episodes into create a new pilot and follow-up episodes, which they posted as 8-minute chunks on MySpace and quarterlife.com, a social network built around the show. (Thanks, Kelly!) Less than a week after the segments began running there, Zwick and Herskovitz struck a deal with NBC to air the program there (back in its original, hour-long format). That brings us to today's development, which, now that I think about it, makes the show's path look more like a sine wave than a trip around a baseball diamond.

Clarifying the blunt comments he'd made to a reporter for NewTeeVee.com, Herskovitz issued a statement today saying the show has a future, and he's grateful for NBC's support.

I’ve always had concerns about whether quarterlife was the kind of show that could pull in the big numbers necessary to succeed on a major broadcast network. It is important to remember that quarterlife has already proved itself as a successful online series and social network with millions of enthusiastic fans.

I cling to the notion that the Internet is as different a medium for entertainment as TV was from radio. A new genre eventually will emerge that takes advantage of the Internet's inherent interactivity and connectivity, producing something that broadcasters can't replicate. In the meantime, though, producers will continue to view the Internet as a place to build audiences on the cheap for video programming that's essentially the same as what's on TV. And even if they succeed -- and quarterlife wasn't much of a phenomenon online, as skeptics pointed out -- that doesn't mean they're fit for prime time. After all, their fortunes online may have been buoyed by the Internet's unique promotional tools, including its ability to create instant communities around content. Take away those tools and, in quarterlife's case, you're left with the same thing ABC passed on, a motion now seconded by NBC.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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