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Online drama

Next update November 2017

With the proliferation of video-on-demand (VOD) services, a growing volume of professionally produced drama content is being made for release online.

Some of this content - programs of at least 60 minutes total duration released on catch-up TV or subscription VOD services - is captured in Screen Australia’s drama production statistics.

However, there’s also an increasing amount of professionally produced drama that’s either below the 60-minute threshold or released on platforms other than catch-up TV or subscription VOD.

Drama series made for online release usually have shorter episode lengths than content made for television release, with episodes typically running between 3 and 15 minutes. Comedy is the most popular genre for online series.

The profile of online series has grown in recent years in part due to the evolution of YouTube as a destination for professionally produced scripted content, alongside user-generated content. Vimeo and Facebook are also prominent platforms for online series. Online series can attract significant audiences: for example, as at October 2016 the 5x6 minute series Versus had attracted over 92 million views on YouTube alone.  The series, by cult online video creators RackaRacka, received funding from Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation and was released on YouTube and Facebook. Marketing via social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, is an important promotional strategy for online series, which can attract large audiences through user sharing.

Online series can also attract the interest of traditional media companies. For example, the ABC commissioned comedy series two of The Katering Show for iview after the YouTube success of series one. US comedy series Broad City is a prominent international example of a TV network commissioning a program based on a YouTube series.

In Australia, the ABC is currently the primary TV network commissioning drama content to premiere on its catch-up TV service. Examples include the second series of Noirhouse and Altruman as well as the successful Fresh Blood comedy program. SBS and the state screen agencies funded 12 comedy teams to produce 5-minute web series pilots through the Comedy Runway program, which has led to the further production of Top Knot Detective and Suspect Moustache. Network Ten has produced spinoff drama from its series Offspring and The Wrong Girl, and Seven West Media have announced a new digital content division, Platform 7.

Screen Australia has funded drama series for online premiere through its Multiplatform Drama program, many of which have premiered on YouTube. Series released outside YouTube include sci-fi series Airlock, which was made available to buy online as a BitTorrent Bundle. BitTorrent Bundles are distributed via BitTorrent, a filesharing network.

Skip Ahead is a joint initiative of Screen Australia and Google/YouTube to help a new generation of online storytellers expand their vision and the ambition of the content they create for online audiences. The initiative was run for the first time in 2014, and funded series including Neighbours vs Zombies, a collaboration between YouTube talent Louna Marun and Fremantle Media, adult animation series Fernando’s Legitimate Business Enterprise and comedy series Axis All Areas and Aunty Donna: 1999. The series Mighty Car Mods was funded by the initiative and is now distributed by the Discovery Channel after millions of views via YouTube.

Some state screen agencies have also provided support for online drama under 60 minutes and/or released on VOD services independent of TV networks or SVOD services. ScreenWest funded online drama through its 3:1 crowdfunding initiative. ScreenWest partnered with crowdfunding platform Pozible to provide $3 for every $1 dollar raised on the platform for drama projects. Online drama funded through 3:1 included Zac and Me, Greenfield and Factory 293.