Web Series Creators Will Grow Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry

By: Walyce Almeida 

More and more people are cutting the cable cord and relying on Internet service to access on-demand entertainment that fits their tastes.

This has created an opportunity for independent producers, directors, writers, and actors to find an audience for their web shows. And according to panelists at the ATL WEBFEST, a conference dedicated to web shows that took place on Oct. 24 and 25, these indie show creators are contributing to the growth of Atlanta’s entertainment industry.

“The media landscape is evolving,” said Asante Bradford, a digital entertainment project manager for Georgia’s Department of Economic Development. “Today’s kids are connected. Now the entertainment scene is starting to get it and embrace it.”

Bradford sat on the opening panel for the ATL WEBFEST alongside Jacqui Chew, CEO of iFusion Marketing and Editorial Director of Beyond MVP; Adam Harrell, President of Nebo Agency; Emma Loggins, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FanBolt.

“Let me hit you with some statistics,” Chew said, to provide more context to the conversation. Chew pointed out that Comcast, a national cable provider has an ever-decreasing subscription base of 30 million while Netflix has already gained 35 million subscribers. And it’s only growing.

So much of the changing behavior in TV viewers is due to the use of new technology. Chew also reminded the audience that World Cup fans watched over 43 million hours of the international event on ESPN’s mobile platform.

All panelists agreed that it makes sense to create shows that audiences can watch on their mobile devices. They also agreed that with the advent of social media connecting people through today’s technology, indie show producers “no longer need permission to get a distribution channel,” said Harrell, an interactive marketing expert.

He added, “If you can build an audience and something they want to consume, you can directly feed it to them.”

Audiences are hungry, willing to share content with each other, and be loyal to various brands, said FanBolt’s Editor Emma Loggins. That’s why Loggins created FanBolt, a site where fans can convene.

“What it gives us the chance to do is have a fan family that goes beyond any tv series,” she said. This fan loyalty, proven by the success of shows on YouTube and Netflix, is what gets the attention of big TV networks such as HBO and CBS that are now breaking its contracts with cable providers in order to allow audiences full access to its content solely online. It allows the companies to reach more people who no longer have a regular TV set in the house.

But audiences’ mobility also means media creators can work from and broadcast to virtually anywhere. So cities like Atlanta now have to provide incentives for them to stay.

“I need you do well with your web series so the city can recruit big companies like Amazon,” said Bradford. “You guys are a selling point.” He added that the city is currently working toward providing more tax incentives for local productions.

Chew challenged producers at the ATL WEBFEST to pitch their shows to companies like Roku saying they are actually desperate for fresh, new content.

“Do something different. Be creative,” said Loggins, who believes mainstream content has become formulaic, driving people to discover original shows online.

The surprising advantage for indie web shows are a lack of a big budget, which means there is less of a risk for loss.

“What you can do is tell stories they [big TV networks] are afraid to tell,” said Harrell. “There is a value in having constraints. What makes things more compelling is doing what you can in those constraints.”

Chew ended the panel urging the indie media folks to “keep creating, don’t leave.”

Atlanta’s Office of Entertainment also held the same sentiment. The Office’s Director LaRonda Sutton stopped by the ATL WEBFEST to announce the city officially decreed Oct 25th as Digital Entertainment Day.