A web series is a series of scripted or non-scripted videos, generally in episodic form, released on the Internet and part of the web television medium, which first emerged in the late 1990s and become more prominent in the early 2000s (decade). A single instance of a web series program can be called an episode or "webisode", however the latter term is not often used. In general, web series can be watched on a range of platforms, including desktop, laptop, tablets and smartphones. They can also be watched on television.
In 2013, streaming video website Netflix earned the first Primetime Emmy Award nominations for original online-only web television for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. Three of its web series, House of Cards, Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove, earned nominations.
As of 2016, there are a number of awards that are given to the top web series productions, including the Streamys, Webbys and Indie Series Awards, and several web series festivals, including the Los Angeles and Vancouver Web Series Festivals. Most major award ceremonies have also created web series and digital media award categories, including the Emmy Awards and the Canadian Screen Awards.
The Spot, or thespot.com, was the first episodic online story, and the first website to integrate photos, videos and what later became known as blogs into the story line. Created by Scott Zakarin in 1995, The Spot was likened to "Melrose Place-on-the-Web" and featured a rotating cast of attractive actors playing trendy and hip twenty somethings who rented rooms in a fabled southern California beach house called “The Spot”, in Santa Monica, California. The site earned the title of Infoseek’s “Cool Site of the Year,” an award which later became the Webby. In that same year, Bullseye Art was one of the first web publishers to create animated webisodes. The first few webisodic content to come out of Bullseye Art included Porkchops, Internet the Animated Series and Rat Chicken. In 1998 Bullseye Art had a hit with Miss Muffy and the Muf Mob, which led to a development deal with MTV. Bullseye Art also created Space Dog which gained popularity on Atom Films. The original Bullseye Art content can be seen currently on the . 1998 was also the first year of the Stella Shorts, perhaps the first comedic live action web series, first seen on Heavy.com and Comedynet.com.
In 2003 Microsoft launched MSN Video, which featured the original web series Weird TV 2000 (from the creators of the syndicated television series, Weird TV). Weird TV 2000 featured dozens of shorts, comedy sketches and mini-documentaries produced exclusively for MSN Video. From 2003 to 2006, several independent web series began to achieve popularity, most notably Red Vs. Blue (created by Rooster Teeth). The series was distributed independently using online portals YouTube and Revver, as well as the , and acquired over 100 million views during its run. Sam Has 7 Friends, which ran in the summer and fall of 2006, was nominated for an Daytime Emmy Award, and was temporarily removed from the Internet when it was acquired by Michael Eisner.
In 2008, Bravo launched its first weekly web series called The Malan Show. It was about a New York City fashion designer named Malan Breton who was trying to become a successful independent designer. In 2009, the first web series festival was established, called the Los Angeles Web Series Festival.
Production and distribution
The rise in the popularity of the Internet and improvements the accessibility and affordability of high speed broadband and streaming video technology meant that producing and distributing a web series became a feasible alternative to "traditional" series production, which was formerly mostly done for broadcast and cable TV. In comparison with traditional TV series production, web series are less expensive to produce. This has allowed a wider range of creators to develop web series. As well, since web series are made available online, instead of being aired at a single preset time to specific regions, they enable producers to reach a potentially global audience who can access the shows 24 hours a day and seven days a week, at the time of their choosing. Moreover, in the 2010s, the rising affordability of tablets and smartphones and the rising ownership rates of these devices in industrialized nations means that web series are available to a wider range of potential viewers, including commuters, travellers and other people who are on the go.
The emerging potential for success in web video has caught the eye of some of the top entertainment executives in America, including former Disney executive and current head of the Tornante Company, Michael Eisner. Eisner's Vuguru subdivision of Tornante partnered with Canadian media conglomerate Rogers Media on October 26, 2009, securing plans to produce over 30 new web shows a year. Rogers Media will help fund and distribute Vuguru's upcoming productions, solidifying a connection between traditional media and new media such as web series. Web series can be distributed directly from the producers' websites, through streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, or via online video sharing websites such as YouTube, Vimeo or Koldcast.
A number of web series incorporate interactive Web 2.0 features on their producer's websites, the show website, or other online fora. These Web 2.0 features enable viewers and fans to post comments online about episodes and link or "tag" favorite shows, episodes or video clips. These activities help to build viewer and fan engagement. Some producers use social media and social networking websites to market their web series and seek new viewers. As well, some producers monitor social media and networking comments as a way to obtain fan feedback on their shows.
The Webby Awards, established in 1995, and the Indie Series Awards, established in 2009, recognize top web series in the comedy, drama, and reality TV categories. In 2009, the International Academy of Web Television was founded with the mission to organize and support the community of web television creators, actors, producers and executives. It administered the selection of winners for the Streamy Awards, (which awards web television and web series content,) in 2009 and 2010. Due to poor reception and execution from the 2010 Streamy Awards, the IAWTV decided to halt its production of the award ceremony. The IAWTV followed this decision by forming their own award presentation, the IAWTV Awards.
Events and festivals
- Indie Series Awards: Founded in 2010 in Los Angeles to celebrate "excellence in web television." Considered one of the most prestigious award ceremonies for web series.
- IAWTV Awards, hosted by the International Academy of Web Television, was founded in 2011 and is devoted to the advancement of the arts and sciences of web television production.
- New Media Film Festival: established in 2009, the annual event celebrates the interactivity of new technologies and formats for Media and Cinema with global consciousness. The 7th annual event is June 7–9, 2016 in Los Angeles.
- Los Angeles Web Series Festival (LA Web Fest): the Los Angeles Web Festival has been the first event in the world dedicated exclusively to web series.
- Vancouver Web Series Festival (AKA Vancouver Web Fest): Canada’s Premier International Web Festival. Founded in 2013, Vancouver Web Fest is an annual festival that showcases webseries and web content from Canada and around the world.
- HollyWeb Festival: An annual festival and awards presentation dedicated exclusively to digital series. The festival just completed its 6th annual event (2017), and always occurs during late March/early April in Hollywood, California. HollyWeb was the first digital content exclusive festival in Hollywood.
- Melbourne Web Fest in Australia will be holding its first annual all web series festival July 20, 2013.
- Chicago Comedy Film Festival: Beginning with the 2013 Festival, Chicago Comedy Film Festival accepted web series episodes for a separate screening and award category. First traditional film festival to feature web series.
- London Web Fest is the first Web Fest in the UK and the first internationally to be created by an established internationally recognised film festival, the Raindance Film Festival. The first one took place September 28–29, 2013.
- Rome Web Fest in Rome, Italy, beginning in 2013.
- TOWebfest is Toronto's premier web series festival. Toronto features a prominent webseries community, with bi-monthly webseries meetups. It is also home to the IWCC-CIWC, or The Independent Web Series Creators of Canada - Créateurs Indépendants de Séries Web du Canada, the organization behind the community assembly and TOWebfest.
- Bilbao Web Fest is a webseries competition that will take place for the first time on 14-15–16 October. It will have dozens of prizes, including distribution deals and in-kind awards.
- Miami Web Fest is the first its kind in South Florida. The festival showcases content from within Florida as well as entries from around the United States and across the globe. The Latino Web Fest, belongs to the Miami Web Fest and focuses on the Hispanic and Latin related content.
- Austin Web Fest is the only festival in Texas devoted to webseries. The festival was created in 2013 by Joe Barajas, Monique Contreras Barajas, David L. Carter, Rain Chavez, Eric Robbins, Mike Scannell, and Danny Trevino. In June 2014, AWF hosted its inaugural festival with screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz and The Hideout with its award ceremony held at the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown.
- Rome Web Awards The Italian web series Oscar.
- SF Web Fest in San Francisco, California, will have its inaugural event on June 5–7, 2015.
- Seattle Web Fest in Seattle, Washington premiered at Northwest Film Forum in March 2015.
- Rio Web Fest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is the First Web Series Festival of Brazil. Its first edition takes place in November 6–8, 2015.
- DC Web Fest in Washington DC was the first web festival in the region with its first event in 2013. Previous festivals have been held at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse and the Goethe Institut DC. The DC Web Fest showcases the best in online filmmaking and also highlights new digital media, such as gaming and app development.
- Webfest Berlin first festival of its kind in Germany. Webfest Berlin will show the world ‘What’s Next’ in global web series for the first time in September 2015 . lbao - Rio and Dublin
- YouTube FanFest Mumbai was a gathering held on 24 March 2017 in Mumbai, with 5000 participants.