Getting started with watching web TV

Shot from a TV studio control room looking through the rear window.

This year's CES was abuzz with announcements about Internet connected TV sets. Much discussion of the technology powering these televisions followed and on this blog I have been exploring some of that technology over the past few years. Alongside these developments a whole new industry of web television is springing up. Last month even saw the first ever International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) Awards that highlighted the achievements of this sector. However as this is a whole new world of television, where do you start? I made a resolution this year to find out much more about web TV. Here are some interesting examples of web TV shows that I've been watching.

When exploring any new area it helps to have a guide. In the world of web TV such a guide can be found in Indie Intertube, a weekly hour long show that keeps you up to date with the web TV scene. Amanda Shockley and April Grant, the presenters, show passion and enthusiasm for the area and by watching their show and following their website it is possible to discover lots of new programmes to watch. As well as keeping you up to date with discussion, news and events they also play trailers for various web series so it helps to have a notepad to scribble down the titles of any that look interesting. You can watch their show live on the Mingle Media TV network or catch up with episodes on YouTube. They can be found on Twitter @indie_intertube.

Through watching Indie Intertube I found out about Michael Caruso's DeVanity soap. This show is about the dysfunctional DeVanity family of Los Angeles and their crumbling jewellery empire. If you used to enjoy Dallas or Dynasty then this show is for you. It might also challenge a few preconceptions of what a web TV series would be like with rather posh costumes and elegant camera work. Most of all it is pure entertainment and good fun. DeVanity is now in its second season and you can watch in on the SFN and follow them on Twitter @DeVanitysoap.

Felicia Day's The Guild really has to have a mention here as it was probably the first web series that I watched and did rather well at the IAWTV awards. This is one of the better known web series and is a sitcom about a group of quite dysfunctional people who play an online game. The show is not only worth watching for entertainment but is also an interesting example the web enabling a show to be made that otherwise might not get further than the drawing board. Day came up with the idea for the show but felt that it was two niche for mainstream TV so set about producing it as a web show. Now the series is distributed through Microsoft's XBox platform and financed through commercial sponsorship. A good reminder that the games console may turn out to be the secret weapon for enabling web TV content to reach the main TV screen in the home. You can follow them on Twitter @theguild.

The problem of a programme being too niche for broadcast network TV is not restricted to shows like The Guild, minority sports often struggle to get coverage as well. So I was surprised to see this example of the web at work solving this problem. I know a couple of people from our local Roller Derby team (a sport that will be familiar to you if you have ever watched the excellent film Whip It) and seeing their updates on Facebook made me think it would be great to watch a bout that that team was taking part in. The bout was in another part of the country, but I could watch the whole thing live on my television thanks to Roller Derby UK TV. The viewer numbers they were getting could not justify coverage on traditional TV networks, but the web could step in to fill this gap. This is a great example of seeing broadcast TV and web TV complement each other. It is a mistake to say that one will destroy the other I think, but each has different strengths and weaknesses that means the two world can go together and expand the range of programming on offer.

A couple of other web series I have been enjoying are Thurston - The Western Web Series and Casters (Twitter: @casterstheshow). The former is an atmospheric and intriguing series set in the Old West. It is interesting to see a web series take on a historical topic. The latter is about a group who produce a podcast, but personal relationships and difficulties threaten to get in the way. Many web series web sites feature not just the show itself but also extras for you to enjoy (pretty much along the lines of DVD extras). In the case of Casters you can download the podcast that you see them make during the show!

I am only just starting to explore what is on offer in the world of the web series but already it has been great fun. In many ways the people who produce such series are pioneers themselves and I am not surprised many of them come from America where maybe a bit of the frontier spirit remains! The arrival of the IAWTV awards perhaps hints at a future where watching web TV series will be more commonplace and the industry will be much bigger than it is today. For now I am just looking forward to enjoying more of these shows and I hope that this selection proves useful as a starting point.

Photo: Broadcasting by Kevin Cochran

Comments

Good article. Glad the word is getting out. The gals at Indie Intertube are fantastic. If you get a chance please check out our series, Once You Leave (OnceYouLeave.com). April and Amanda really like it and we are trying to grow our following. Thanks..

Thanks for giving "Thurston" a mention! The Indie Intertube ladies are great - a crash course on what's hot on the web. Episode 4 of "Thurston" came out on February 12 so check it out!

Thank you so much for the kind words for DeVanity!!! Thank you for spreading the word about the show as well as the others!!