Syndicate or Die
Once you’ve developed an online following, you can start looking for money, or perhaps money will find you. If you’ve got something really eye-catching, you might find offers coming in for representation or to host your next series of shows. If that happens, consider yourself lucky.
One of the web’s best known series, The Legend of Neil, about a gas station attendant who enters the world of The Legend of Zelda, was created by writer/director/actor Sandeep Parikh. While he was able to fund the series by making a deal with Comedy Central,it meant giving up the rights to the property. Parikh chose guaranteed funding over the more arduous self-syndicationroute, but he isn’t sure he’ll do the same thing next time.
Sandeep Parikh (with headset), creator of The Legend of Neil, says that the content creator’s central dilemma ischoosing between the guaranteed funding of an established backer like Comedy Central and taking the more arduousself-syndication route.
"It’s really a crapshoot in a way and I think it’s a constant struggle for all of us," Parikh says. "Everybody is in a sort of eternal struggle whether to sell to the larger companies or ‘Hey, why don’t we just go ahead and make this ourselves?’ I think a lot of that has to do with what type of show you’re making and what are the base costs to create a show. I felt that I made the best deal at the time, and I’m still quite happy with the deal. At this point I look at creating more web series and that question remains in my mind: Do I necessarily need a larger corporation to step in or is it worth going out and maybe treating it like a business, self-distributing andkeeping all the rights? That’s the big question."
Creators who can’t attract big-name buyers will need to explore revenue options. One common method is to enter into revenue-sharing agreements with video sites such as YouTube.
Revenue sharing is a safe bet for host sites, since no money changes hands up front. The host site places advertisements on or around the video, and the creator and the site split the money. It’s a good arrangement for video creators, since there’s no set fee and it rewards popularity. As your audience grows, so too does your paycheck.
This is the route that Michael Davies took for his well-regardedpostapocalyptic series After Judgment and its companion series Before Judgment, setting up revenue-sharing deals with YouTube, KoldCast TV, Metacafe, and blip.tv. He also uploads his content to other sites simply for the exposure.
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