A New Web Series, A Newfound Fear

FirstDates-Poster-Long-Dark-Blue

Well, I’ve been gone for a while, huh? I could blame it on the fact that I’ve been busy, but really that’s no excuse. One cannot let the ways of the world and the trivial natures of the day get in the way of one’s blog, because if we did, blogs would cease to exists…and we wouldn’t want that.

So what have I been busy doing? Today’s picture should give it away…to some extent. I just realized that the banner I’ve created doesn’t really let you know what “First Dates” is (check out the trailer!). Someone could look at that and think “First Dates” is a dating app set to launch in the Google Play Store in late July. But to give the 2 or 3 people who still read this blog the inside scoop, “First Dates” is a web series.

That’s right, the Media Man is finally breaking away from the written word and putting his money where his mouth is. After a lifetime spent critiquing showrunners and filmmakers, I’m finally attempting to put out some content of my own…and hell if it ain’t pretty damn scary.

Not scary in a I-think-Chucky-is-under-my-bed kind of way. But scary in the sense that you got into this little hole with a few filmmakers and a cast, and out of the hole comes something you and your team thinks might be good, but you don’t really know if it’s good until other people watch it and tell you it’s good. Sure, content creators who have had great successes always tell you that their best content is the content they would’ve made for themselves. But then that doesn’t explain why someone like Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey and even the Queen of Media, Oprah Winfrey have seen projects that they personally loved fail like the fat, 4th grade version of myself trying to climb the rope in gym class.

So when you know people like that have had many content failures, and when you follow the business and see that smart, well-intentioned, middle-aged white people in suits working for likes of ABC, CBS and NBC make decisions every year that consistently bomb at percentage rates that would make a Phillies hitter blush, it makes it hard to know with any certainty that I, Uzo, can make something that’s assured to be a hit.

It’s made especially harder by the fact that this is my first time doing this. Sure, your boy has starred in videos like “Follies Linebacker” and “Rap Battles,” but that was with my lovely face on the screen. As the guy behind the scenes running the show, who the hell knows how this is going to turn out?

I say all of this not to say that I’m not confident, because I am very confident. Not that I’m one to mimic my life after LeBron James, but when he said he was the best basketball player in the world last week, he said so knowing that he was probably about to get his head caved in by the Golden State Warriors. And so while I have that near-same level of confidence, minus the narcissistic “best in the world” claim, I understand that I can’t control all of the factors. What are those factors? Let’s run through a few of them:

Good Content Doesn’t Always Prevail – As much as Netflix, HBO and Hulu will make you think otherwise, the truth is that good content doesn’t always guarantee success. “Newsroom” was a great HBO show deserving of way more than the 2.5 seasons it got, but because it didn’t get the ratings of a “True Detective” and wasn’t the cultural zeitgeist that its ratings match “Girls” was, it got the boot earlier than it should have. Speaking of “True Detective,” even content that goes on to last many seasons sometimes was an episode away from disappearing forever. The early seasons of “Breaking Bad” were barely being watched by Bryan Cranston’s own family, and had it not been for the timely explosion of Netflix’s digital streaming feature, who knows if that show wouldn’t have been canceled midway through Season 2.

Marketing Content is Key and Costly – I don’t know if I’m going to address it via blog or via the podcast (that’s right, a new podcast episode is coming!), but Hulu is about to bet big on content, and this time they’ve assured their creators that they’re goint to spend 70% more dollars on marketing shows than they have in past. For me, 70% of nothing is still nothing, thus New Yorkers won’t see any billboards of “First Dates” on the subway during their rush hour commutes. Still, I have to market the hell out of “First Dates” if I want to have any chance of the series being seen by anyone. But since I don’t have the money, I have to invest the time. And if the fact that I’m only posting to this blog for the 4th time in 2015, and it’s June, doesn’t speak to how much spare time I’ve got on my hands, I don’t know what does.

The Competition is Real – Even if I had the budget of a Hulu, cutting through the clutter of the internet is kind of a lucky man’s game. If you monitor or are in the web series world at all, then at some point in your life you’ve definitely seen good-quality, engaging, interesting content on YouTube that only got 197 views after 6 years of a creators constant tweeting and guest posting. Sure, you could say they didn’t market it well, or maybe that it was too niche, but the fact is that there is a lot of “good” content on the web, and in web series format, and if your content isn’t one of those pieces that is lucky enough to go viral, can you really build an audience without spending boatloads of marketing and praying that it works–or at the very least, come into the project with an already existing audience? In 2015, the answer to that question is almost assuredly no.

Those are are just a few of the factors out of my control. Others issues fall somewhere in one of the following buckets: monetization, resources or time management. I think I’ll tackle the monetization aspect of doing a web series in my next post on “First Dates.” Until then…

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