Upfront season, the busiest time of the TV industry just concluded last week. BET, MTV, E!, A+E Networks, NBCU, Fox, Univision, CBS, ABC and USA Network‘s upfronts all used social TV to tell their advertisers why they should invest in their programming and initiatives. While social is going to play a bigger role in the business of TV than ever before, the way programming is green-lit for pilots and funded couldn’t be more traditional. A new startup, New York-based Mobcaster is redefining independent television in the age of the social web.
We’ve seen networks explore turning Twitter handles into TV shows. We’ve also seen writers with social media influence launch TV shows for NBC and HBO. Still, the chances of using the social web to get your show idea picked up are slim to none. The industry still relies heavily on agents, development shops and of course the networks to give a new writer a chance. To their credit, this has helped provide fans with must-tweet-TV. Aubrey Levy has launched a platform with the mission is to empower the social web to pick the next hit TV show.
Lost Remote: What’s your background and why did you start Mobcaster?
Aubrey Levy: My co-founder and I both started our careers on the creative side. I was an actor and writer, and he a writer/independent producer. We had each experienced pitching TV shows into the system and running up against the multitude of hurdles and gatekeepers. On my end, after transitioning to the business side, completing business school and a stint at HBO, I felt there needed to be an alternative to the current TV creation process, one that added more value for the creators, audiences and even networks and advertisers.
LR: How does Mobcaster work? What kinds of users do you have?
Levy: Here’s the process: Show Creators (Showrunners) can upload their pitch for a new show on Mobcaster. Usually they start with a show concept and are trying to create the pilot episode. With a 2.5 min pitch video, non-financial rewards and the script or treatment for the episode (which we keep private unless they want it disclosed), they can try to raise necessary funds for the pilot. If it’s successful, they go and shoot the pilot then bring it back and go through the process again, this time to raise funds for the rest of the first season (5 more episodes – we work with 6 ep seasons). Those shows that successfully fund for a season or more, we broadcast on site.
Our users are show creators who love the opportunity and autonomy that comes with creating the show independently and TV lovers, who want more control over their TV content.
LR: How is Mobcaster making television creation more social?
Levy: Mobcaster takes social engagement around TV to a whole new level. The viewer doesn’t just engage with the content once it’s landed on their screens, he/she engages with the show at the very beginning, using their voice and support to actually get the show made. Users engage with show creators through Mobcaster and across social media platforms, and equally as important, they engage with each other. Shows only get made if there is sufficient viewer support to fund the show, which often means its viewers have to get very active spreading the word and building awareness.
LR: What are some of the biggest successes? How much have they raised? Have any of them been on TV?
Levy: Our largest success so far is “The Weatherman“, our first full season funded (also the first full season that fund-raised!). It’s a half-hour comedy about a hilariously helpless weatherman trying to stay relevant as his prime has past him by. They raised ~$74k for the season. None have gone to traditional TV yet, but we’re only just getting started pumping out great new shows.
LR: Have you worked with any TV networks or brands?
Levy: We’re in conversations with a variety of participants on the traditional TV and brand side. However we can best help our show creators get exposure and opportunity for their shows we’ll explore.
LR: Anything else?
Levy: Sure, the beauty of the model is that we are able to disrupt the traditional TV creation process without destroying the system. Mobcaster enables TV shows to come to life in a way that creates opportunity for show creators, empowers and adds value for audiences and makes it easier for advertisers and networks to source content in a more efficient manner. We’re creating a channel of exclusively market-supported TV shows, that should a network want, could easily make the jump to traditional TV.