So you've completed your web series - congratulations! Now your job is to get as many eyeballs on it as possible. Are you up for the challenge?
Trouble is, many web series distribution platforms have come and gone over the years, or have been bought out by a series of other companies, so it can be daunting to understand this ever-changing landscape.
Also, you need to be on the lookout for scammy companies who are all too willing to relieve you of your rights to your content in exchange for "exposure."
Despite the challenges, there are several fantastic outlets for web series distribution, and today we'll be going over an intro to web series distribution on some of the top platforms, how they benefit web series creators, and the pros and cons of each. (This is by no means an exhaustive list.)
Obviously the largest and most popular video uploading site, many web series producers create content specifically with YouTube in mind.
Pros: Free to use, the biggest and most popular video network and search engine in the world, fairly user-friendly interface, potential to bring in some income with a large viewership, creators can use the physical YouTube spaces if they have 1,000 or more subscribers.
Cons: Already over-saturated with web series, and fierce competition from millions of other channels with vlogs, reaction videos, cute cats, makeup tutorials, and product reviews.
Multi-channel networks like i am OTHER and Maker are a compilation of multiple YouTube channels and shows, together in one place. If you have a large viewer base, you may be approached by one of these networks, or you can also apply to be a part of them. Some offer various benefits and production support to members.
Pros: Opportunity for greater viewership and exposure, often offer support to members.
Cons: The income splits and arrangements can sometimes be confusing to understand, creators need to be savvy, and understand the contracts they're signing.
Vimeo is known for its fantastic video quality, and yet isn't quite as well-trodden as YouTube.
Pros: Free to use, great HD video quality, professional-looking, potential for your videos to be chosen as one of Vimeo's Staff Picks and given good exposure.
Cons: Less popular than YouTube, less viewership, less potential for exposure.
Netflix / Hulu / Amazon / Google Play / iTunes through Distribber
Submitting to content aggregators like Distribber will grease the wheels significantly towards getting your content accepted to streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Google Play.
I spoke with Distribber owner and CEO Nick Soares, a filmmaker himself who's a champion of independent distribution. He confirmed that some streaming channels are indeed accepting web series, particularly if a series has a following, has won any awards or has been in festivals, and/or has press and favorable reviews. (They're also now accepting short films.)
As far as episode length, fee-based platforms that charge a separate fee for each episode want standard TV length (22-60 minute) episodes, however, ad-supported platforms that charge a monthly fee are open to shorter-length web series (at least 7 minutes per episode). The best part is, if your content is accepted to a streaming channel through Distribber, you get to keep 100% of your revenue split with the channel - Distribber does not take a cut. You can view and manage your sales and income from your account so you have transparency on what your actual earnings are. This is exciting news for us indie content creators!
Each streaming platform has different requirements and levels of curation, and different one-time fees for encoding, so there is an investment to make. However, in the end, it's affordable, especially considering the potential exposure and that you get to keep all of your revenue (unlike traditional indie distribution deals where you would pay encoding fees and typically never see a dime of any profits.) Also, if you submit to a platform and it doesn't accept your content, your encoding fee is returned to you, minus a small processing fee.
Pros: If accepted, your content is distributed for millions to view on the most popular platforms, you keep 100% of your revenue, full reporting on Distribber site of your views, sales, and revenue.
Cons: It isn't free, and it is an investment depending on the number of episodes you're submitting. There is a more affordable reduced price for shorter web series submissions versus regular TV-length episodes. You'll need to contact Distribber directly for the exact per-episode fee for web series. Also, you'll need to make sure you're driving traffic via your own network and social media to get people to watch.
Funny or Die
If you have a comedic web series, it's worth uploading to Funny or Die to see if you can build a following. You can also submit one of your uploaded episodes to the Funny or Die team to see if you can get it featured on the homepage, allowing for even more exposure. Funny or Die also has an app for streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV, in addition to its website at FunnyorDie.com.
Pros: Free to use, strong user base, good opportunities for exposure.
Cons: Voters can vote to kill your videos.
As I said, this is no means an exhaustive list so feel free to let me know about any additional distribution options for web series that you know of.
Reading over this list, I'm seeing how lucky we content creators are to have these options to showcase our work to millions of people at our fingertips, without even having to leave the house. It truly is a great time to be a web series creator or self-distributing filmmaker.
In future articles, I'll be discussing what to look for in terms of choosing the right distribution path for your web series, and how to avoid giving your content away to scammers. Stay tuned!
- More articles by Rebecca Norris
- Five Tips to Poise Your Script for Distribution
- Writers on the Web: Burning Web Series Questions Answered
Get more web series advice in Rebecca Norris' webinar
Writing the Web Series