Online Video All Stars – A Snapshot of the Companies + Content that Stood the Tests of Time

/ May 27, 2013


A glut of inspiration and investment in online video between 2007 and 2009 spawned both quality companies and shows. But a recession also broke a lot of them. In true throwback spirit, I took a look at some of the web series and companies that were ahead of their time and how others withstood the test of time.

Early online video, especially circa 2008, was more than a mixed bag.

Much like we see today, there was an insurgence of capital and studio / network expansion into online video – HBO had This Just In; NBC had DotComedy; Turner had Super Deluxe; Disney launched Stage9. On the content side, “Quarterlife” started as a simultaneous short-form show broadcasted on Myspace paired with vlogs hosted on The latter was designed both as the central location for related, extended commentary and a social network for fans. NBC even picked up the show, attempting to broadcast a season of six hour-long episodes which were canned pretty quickly after the first episode. And even though “Quarterlife” failed on linear television, NBC continued releasing the entire season on Hulu in roughly eight-minute segments until March 2008.

It felt like NBC had learned from their mistakes when news broke that they had begun production on “Gemini Division” in the same month. The sci-fi show was released in August of the same year and featured Rosario Dawson as an undercover NYPD officer in 30 online-only episodes. Show length varied between five and seven minutes and relied heavily on product placement instead of pre-roll ad support — in fact, the show’s strongest critics found this to be the show’s greatest weakness, since it detracted from dialogue and sci-fi imagery. Though originally slated for 50 episodes, the show’s viewership had fizzled out by the 30th episode.

A similar theme occurs with production companies 60Frames and National Banana: both were founded in 2007, but funding ran dry by 2009. The content produced by both has survived on YouTube, though only the latter sold some of its work to and Funny or Die. National Banana specialized in original and political content that currently has over two million views, though that obviously wasn’t enough to guarantee funding. Comparatively, 60Frames had under 12 million views, had raised $3.5 million in investments including money from United Talent Agency where 60Frames CEO Brent Weinstein currently runs the digital division. Despite having created “Don’t Hassle the Hoff” with David Hasselhoff it still wasn’t enough to keep their doors from closing.

But this time frame isn’t a total failure. Safran Digital was founded as a wholly owned subsidiary of The Safran Company in 2008. When cofounder Jake Zim left in 2009, Peter Safran returned his focus to producing films with The Safran Company. Safran Digital may have dissolved, but managed to at least one significant victory in the Xbox-only “Horror Meets Comedy” series where horror directors like one-time Twilight Director David Slade and horror vet James Gunn tried their hands at comedy films. Mania TV also survived on a heavy dose of comedy and celebrity programming. Though it was founded in 2004, the formula that has helped it survive to this day came about when it launched Tom Green’s Internet TV show in 2006 and added more celebrities in 2007. After temporarily folding, Founder Drew Massey bought the brand back from investors in 2009 and the network currently pulls in over 10 million viewers per month.

During online video’s formative years the struggle was obviously huge, but some companies clearly found their niche. One such company is Revision3, which more than survived those early years on the way to a landmark acquisition from Discovery Communications. Later this week, we’ll profile Revision3 (which just launched a new digital network in partnership with Discovery) and examine how it managed to become an online heavyweight, despite odds stacked heavily against them.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Machinima Logo

Machinima Teams with SiriusXM for Daily Esports Radio Show


AwesomenessTV, Vice, Complex to Power New HearstLive...


VIDEO: ‘Dirty 30’ Confessions with Stars Hart,...


Facebook Says It’s Sorry It Vastly Overestimated Video...

Industry Tickets Selling Fast!
Click above to lock in your registration for VidCon 2015!

Pilgrim Media Group CEO Craig Piligian (‘The...


Heroes or Rats?: YouTube Unveils New Program for Creators Who...

Vessel says it's doing well in its first month

Why Verizon is Pursuing Vessel, the...


How Canvs Media is Harvesting Emotional Insights on YouTube,...


Marlon Wayans Getting ‘Naked’ for Netflix with Regina Hall


HuffPost RYOT Launching Virtual Reality Comedy Series and News...


YouTube Launches #voteIRL Campaign Targeting Digital-First Generation


How Top YouTubers (incl. Tyler Oakley & Meghan Rienks)...


Charlie Sheen to Star in Crackle Feature ‘Mad Families’


Gunpowder & Sky Buys Distributor FilmBuff As Vision for...


Toy Freaks Top Viewed YouTube Channel in August According to...


Emmy Wrap-Up 2016: Jeffrey Tambor (‘Transparent’)...


Twitter Scores 2.1 Million Viewers for Thursday Night Footall Kickoff


Vloggers Not Unique Snowflakes: 90 Million Flag YouTube Videos...

Mode Media

‘Billion Dollar Startup’ Mode Media Shuts Down


Who Is Winning The Marketing Revolution And Why?


Netflix Orders ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ Series...


What Is ‘Swedish Dicks’ and Who Is Selling It?


How GMC is Using the AOL Series ‘Seamlessly She’...


Liberty Global to Put Netflix on Set-Top Boxes in 30 Countries


Getting to the Spine of VR’s Monetization Challenges with...


Meredith Hosted Its Own “Front” Stacked with 20 New Series


Verizon and Hearst Move and Seriously.TV Under...


Twitter Launches Live Streaming Apps for Amazon Fire, Apple TV...

YouTube Community

YouTube Fights Back Against Social Media Rivals with Community Feature

Casual Hulu

Vimeo Opening Television Store with Lionsgate Content, Launching...

A Perfect Day in LA Tastemade Jaunt VR Virtual Reality

From Donuts to Malibu, Tastemade and Jaunt Get Immersive in...

Defy Media

Defy Media Close $70 Million Series B Funding Round

YouTube Space LA Halloween Set 2016

YouTube Spaces Team with Jason Blum (‘The Purge’)...

Yahoo Esports

‘Yahoo Esports Live’ Serves Up Reeses Puffs with...


Univision and Lionsgate Team for SVOD Movie Service for U.S. Hispanics

People Entertainment Weekly PEN

People/Entertainment Weekly Ad-Supported OTT Service Preps for Launch

George_Kliavkoff Jaunt VR

Jaunt VR Hires Hearst Exec George Kliavkoff as CEO

Making a Murderer Netflix

‘Making a Murderer’ Scores for Netflix at Creative...

Future Man Hulu Josh Hutcherson

Hulu Orders ‘Future Man’ Series Starring Josh...

Heirloom Paten Hughes Tom Wopat Vimeo

How an Actress’ Real-Life Tomato Farm Inspired the New...