Web series hot topic at NATPE sessions

Finding sponsorships, viewers among issues discussed

LAS VEGAS -- Two packed sessions at NATPE on Thursday morning offered tips on developing a Web series and strategies on making it a hit.

The sessions took place on the final day of the confab on the exhibition floor, something new the organization implemented this year.

CBS Interactive senior vp/GM Anthony Soohoo and Mark Grossan, producer of Web series "Novel Adventures," talked about the show's creation. The producers came to CBS Interactive with a sponsor, Saturn, already attached, which Soohoo admitted made it "a lot easier" to greenlight.

"But we do look at projects with no sponsor; we also try to determine if there is potential for it to live on air as a series, or we will work with the content creators to find a sponsor," Soohoo said.

Grossan said he and "Novel" creator Jonathan Prince are now developing the series into a traditional series to pitch to networks including CBS and Lifetime. The online version stars Daphne Zuniga, Paola Turbay, Ashley Williams and Jolie Jenkins.

Later, another panel dissected the challenges in turning a Web series into a hit. Kim Evey, producer at Mediocre Films whose online programs include the Sony-distributed "Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Show" and another called "The Guild," said her company initially funded "Guild" itself but ran out of money after the first three episodes. Instead of stopping production, they decided to reach out to fans for help.

"We put up a link to PayPal and asked if the fans would be willing to pay," she said. "Seven out of 10 of the first-season episodes are fan-funded."

Producers have since struck a sponsorship deal with Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Web topics also were addressed Thursday during a session titled "India -- A Booming TV Market." A panel said some issues the U.S. entertainment industry is currently dealing with in regards to union demands over compensation for TV content airing on new-media platforms are starting to trickle into India.

But Andy Kaplan, president of international networks at Sony Pictures Television, said the new-media market for content in India is still in its early stages.

"The market for online, mobile and VOD is very small," he said.