Maker Studios, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and more

Internet video has been progressing slowly and steadily, with regard to both technology and content. Netflix and Hulu have now both been nominated for Emmys, and Netflix for an Academy Award (proving the professional TV and film industry is becoming more accepting of streaming video) and there are several awards platforms dedicated just to short-form internet content (The Streamy, Webby, and Shorty Awards, for example).

In this regular column, I’ll be updating you on what’s new in the world of web series. This will include occasional information on streaming-exclusive content from the major companies like Netflix or Hollywood studios. However, it will also focus on the many independent web series that spring up thanks to passionate and talented individuals, and smaller production companies, that use YouTube, Vimeo, or other hosting sites to distribute episodes.

Disney Buys Maker Studios

Maker Studios is a company that assists its members in managing their YouTube channels. According to its website, it offers “development, production, promotion, distribution, sales, marketing, access to royalty free music for content creation, and custom merchandise solutions.” It was founded by a group of popular YouTubers including Lisa Donovan (LisaNova) and now achieves 4.5 billion monthly views and 340 million subscribers among its diverse channel offerings. Disney bought Maker on March 24 for an undetermined amount of money, between $500 million and $950 million. Maker also just announced their first collaboration with “traditional” television, by licensing 500 hours of content to Music Choice cable stations.

Netflix Announces New Series

Netflix announced in February that House of Cards was renewed for a third season, and in March announced the upcoming series Grace and Frankie starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. The final season of the former Cartoon Network show Star Wars: The Clone Wars was also released this month as a Netflix exclusive. These join other forthcoming productions:

2014 will include new seasons of Hemlock Grove (s2), Orange is the New Black (s2), Lilyhammer (s3), and The Killing (s4), as well as the first seasons of historic fiction Marco Polo, crime drama Narcos, the Wachowskis’ sci-fi offering Sense8, and animated shows Bojack Horseman, King Julien, Puss in Boots, and VeggieTales in the House.

2015 will include Daredevil (the first of 5 planned, interrelated series based on Marvel comics characters), House of Cards (s3), and Grace and Frankie … and likely several more series for which release dates have not yet been announced.

For select international markets, From Dusk til Dawn is now available. U.S. viewers, however, can see it only on the El Ray network, created by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, for now.

My Gimpy Life Releases Season 2

The comedic web series about a wheelchair-using actress, loosely based on creator Teal Sherer’s real life, released it’s 4-episode second season this month. This season was successfully funded on Kickstarter exceeding its goal of $50,000. Teal is also known for appearing in The Guild (and several other Guild actors are featured in this show). My Gimpy Life successfully portrays people with diverse disabilities, and challenges they face both as actors in Hollywood and simply in daily life. It creates an important dialog, and it entertains viewers along the way. Season 2 ends in a way that works as a satisfying conclusion, but I do hope that the series will continue, or at least that Teal will continue working on other series.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Inspires Multitude of Web Spinoffs

The sixth season of RPDR is currently airing on Logo, and its fans eagerly wait to see which drag performer will snatch the crown (and frequently throw some “shade” of their own by critiquing the contestants). In addition to the main show and backstage extras of Untucked, this season is greeted by so many web series that they take almost as long to watch as the show itself. (Which isn’t a bad thing.)

Among the official offerings produced by Logo and/or World of Wonder are the return of Pandora Boxx’s Drag Center critiques and Extra Lap Recaps by John Polly. This season there are also several new shows, including judge Michelle Visage’s Whatcha Packin’ interviews with the eliminated contestants, Fashion Photo RuView with Raja and Raven rating the competitors’ looks, and Oh’ Pit Crew featuring the male models/assistants who are now sponsored by gay dating app Scruff. Plus, there’s a whole lot of other ongoing web series which regularly feature RuPaul and the many other stars of Drag Race.

Then, there are the fan-created videos and blogs that follow and critique the show, which include YouTubers Honey Golightly (who does inspired satire of the show using fashion dolls altered to look like the queens), CMaddoxBiitch, THROWINSHADE, Boy Culture, and…. well, pretty much every drag queen loving vlogger.

My personal favorites of the RPDR web series are those featuring former contestants Pandora Boxx, Raja, and Raven, and Honey Golightly’s hilarious Most Popular Girls of Drag Race.

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That’s it for this edition of Web Series Salon … I plan for this column to appear about once a week, or whenever there is enough web series news to warrant it.
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(Note: this column originally appeared on the DTV-USA Forum website on 03-28-2014)

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