YouTube Sitcoms and Australia

Posted on 10 July 2013

Felicia Day came to many people’s attention when she played the character “Vi” on the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, what secured her position in the hearts of fans was a Web series she developed called The Guild.

The Guild

The Guild was originally developed as a sitcom pilot about online roleplaying gaming. It premiered on YouTube in July 2007. After three “Webisodes” Day ran out of production money, but through PayPal donations was able to continue.

The Guild went viral. Microsoft made a deal with Day to fund production, provided episodes premiered on Xbox Live Marketplace, Zune Marketplace, and MSN Video. This deal went from series two to series five. Microsoft then decided to change their business model, wanting ownership of the episodes.

To retain ownership Day concluded her relationship with Microsoft and began premiering episodes on her own channel on YouTube. Season six has recently completed and is now available via DVD and streaming on Netflix and Hulu.

Geek & Sundry

Day now produces a number of shows for her channel Geek & Sundry which is sponsored by YouTube. These include Space Janitors, Wil Wheaton’s Table Top, Dark Horse Motion Comics, and The Flog. She is just about to launch a whole raft of new shows over the next few weeks. She seems to be the living example of Weird Al Yankovic’s film UHF, only online.

Most of her shows involve a strong element of comedy. In fact Space Janitors is my current favourite sitcom in any media. The Guild gets close to two million visits PER episode.

Now there are a number of reasons why Day has achieved so much. Both she and Wil Wheaton have developed a large and strong fan base. People get excited about her involvement with Buffy and Wil’s involvement with Star Trek. They are even more excited that they have easy access to Day and Wheaton’s lives and attention, since they regularly share their experiences online through a diversity of social media. Fans are then ready to support the projects Day is producing, even if she herself does not star in them.

Here in Australia we could replicate the system Felicia Day has created, but only with the right combination of ingredients.

Australia’s YouTube Channel

First we would need ABC or SBS to set up a channel on YouTube specifically for selling Australian comedians and comedy to the world. We would then need one of our internationally recognised comedians to put forward their own vlog or Web sitcom, then show support for others on the same channel. We could also use some guest appearances by internationally recognised comedians from other countries. Arrangements could be made during Melbourne Comedy Festival.

The channel would then be ready to start premiering a diversity of local comedy. If some succeed, keep them on the channel. If a few don’t, that’s fine. Keep cycling new people through with new shows and new ideas. Just remember who your audience is online when selecting shows. Each Webisode need be no longer than seven minutes. Convince Netflix to set up a channel dedicated to Australian shows and run our Webisodes there. Let’s put Australia in the minds of North American youth in the same way Anime is. Offer to sell DVDs of our shows through distribution channels around the world.

With an initial leg up by some part of the Australian government, it’s possible we could eventually find funding from crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. It depends on how successfully we leverage being flavour of the month. Space Janitors is currently crowdfunding its third season on Indiegogo.

I do not have certain production skills to pull this off, but I do have the vision, I understand the medium, I understand the online audience, I understand the North American audience. We could kick some serious sitcom butt! (so to speak). Let’s get online and have some fun!

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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