Machinima Scores With Scripted Drama

If the recent flurry of activity in Web video series is any guide, the medium is all about reality rather than scripted programming. But there’s hope for the scripted series arising from sci-fi Web show “RCVR.”

RCVR” (pronounced receiver), generated a total of 2.4 million views just 12 days after going live on Machinima’s YouTube channel. According to channel’s data, the first three episodes of the X-Files-esque show attracted an audience of 1.7 million daily unique users, which puts “RCVR” in range of several cable dramas.
Like many Web series, particularly those on YouTube, the audience of “RCVR” did slip following its first episode, which as of Thursday had generated 1.1 million streams. But both episode two and three have exceeded 800,000 views, providing possible evidence of a sustainable audience — something that often eludes Web shows and causes buyers to doubt the medium.
Machinima CEO Allen DeBevoise, of course, has a different take, thinking the success of “RCVR” shouldn’t come as a surprise. “We have a large audience, and we are really serious about this category.”
To make his point, DeBevoise cited Machinima’s previous live action scripted show, “Mortal Kombat,” which has garnered a whopping 50
million views and has inspired an upcoming feature film.
For example, HBO’s Game of Thrones averaged about 2.4 million male viewers during its debut season, while SyFy’s Alpha’s has pulled in about 1.7 million viewers an episode, per Nielsen. Even similarly targeted broadcast shows like NBC’s Chuck (2.5 million viewers) and the CW’s Supernatural (2.1 million) are in striking distance, argues DeBevoise — who has a theory as to what would make advertisers take his shows more seriously.
“I wish Nielsen would measure us in the same way they do with TV,” he said.
That would certainly help provide Machinima, and scripted Web dramas, with some third-party validation. But those in the know already recognize the large audience Machinima and similar YouTube producers are attracting.
According to Google Americas president Dennis Woodside, there are 10 channels on YouTube that average over 5 million unique viewers per week, and Machinima is one of them. And during a panel at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Mixx conference earlier in the week, Milana Rabkin, Digital Media Agent at UTA, cited Machinima several times as an example of a company that is able to nurture significant online audiences.
“TV [producers are] saying to us; we’re not reaching the same audiences we used to,” Rabkin said. “They are fragmenting. But people are building huge networks online. With Machinima, not that many video channels can claim that kind of subscriber-ship.”
Sounds great, but many ad buyers aren’t buying it. There’s still some lingering doubt in the industry that viewers are ready to commit to a series. DeBevoise believes that too many mistakes by traditional media companies have tarnished the space. Most, he argues, forget about being strategic, feeling their job is to create and then await discovery.
“I don’t think there are a lot of brands that are programmers,” he said. “A lot of the shows they post online are put up randomly. You need a stake in it, and you need to promote. For us, we’ve now got a big network from which to funnel audience.”