There’s no such thing as appointment TV, or a "must buy" in the digital video world—yet. But Machinima thinks it might have the closest thing in Mortal Kombat, and the video network is looking to use the anticipated second season of the series to create event-type programming you only see on TV.
The first season of Mortal Kombat, inspired by the classic video game dating back to the 1990s, became an out-of-nowhere phenomenon. Its nine episodes have generated 60 million views to date.
For Season 2, Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2, the plan is to roll out 10 more episodes with 80 minutes of content overall sometime next spring, timed with the latest version of the game, and more importantly, right in time for upfront and NewFront season.
Jay Sampson, Machinima’s evp, global sales, marketing and advertising operations, said that the company has just begun calling on advertisers. He wouldn’t reveal what sort of audience guarantees he’s providing but did say, “We think this is going to equal what we’ve done in past. We see this as being at least on par with what we’ve done recently with shows like Halo and Battlestar.”
“We see this as a punctuation point to how far that programming has evolved on YouTube,” Sampson said.
Case in point: Mortal Kombat’s first season director, Kevin Tancharoen, is returning for the second season. New cast members include Harry Shum Jr. (Glee) and Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers, Tarzan).
“We’ve been able to case every top Asian actor we could dream of,” said Lance Sloane, head of digital productions and programming for Warner Bros. digital distribution. “Harry from Glee literally knocked on the directors door asking to be in the show. We got the fight coordinator for The Hunger Games.”
For the second season, Sloane promised a more continuous, connected storyline and more action for the dark, martial arts-themed show. Production has just begun in Los Angeles. Fans will see the first clip of Kombat in February at the Streamy Awards. “We really listened to the fans. It’s grittier, with less fantasy,” Sloane said.
Given the success of Mortal, particularly in light of Machinima's strong numbers for the Battlestar prequel, the obvious question is, could Mortal Kombat end up on TV at some point?
Thomas Gewecke, president, Warner Bros. digital distribution, didn't rule that out. Shows like Mortal (which of course, is based on a globally popular game) are distributed through multiple outlets across continents, including as full-length DVDs. "We look at these investments as long-term properties," said Gewecke. "This has been a paradigm shift. Over time, you'll definitely see us option [shows like Mortal] to all other media."