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Why web series are so short

Why are web series so short?
Why are web series so short?
Flo DiBona

Web series episodes are typically under ten minutes long. While some are longer or shorter, most web series seasons average 10 to 12 episodes per season. Why are they so short when most fans would prefer a little something more to sink their viewing teeth into?

There are a number of factors involved but the primary one is the cost of production. Web series are independently produced which means they do not have the financial backing of networks or sponsors. To produce their shows most creators use out-of-pocket funds, loans, personal credit cards, or funding campaigns to scrape together the money needed to produce these short episodic installments. Limited funds necessitate guerrilla-style filming schedules to keep production costs to bare minimums. Most web series shoot entire seasons at one time either over the course of a weekend, a couple of weekends, or a week.

Salaries for casts and crews are not enough to financially support an individual, if they are paid at all, so shooting schedules must usually accommodate working around every ones' day jobs. Michael Caruso and wife Barbara held day jobs to support themselves while they produced “DeVanity,” a web series the couple has received a 2014 Daytime Emmy Award nomination for. Almost all web series creators have “day jobs.” That doesn't stop creators from turning out high quality shows like the Carusos' “DeVanity” web series. It is of note that the third and fourth seasons of "DeVanity" are one of the few exceptions to episode lengths with the show's last two seasons expanding its episodes. The third season averaged 17 to 18 minutes per episode, and its fourth season averaged 20 to 25 minutes per episode. But these lengths are the exception right now.

Fans, especially those who are soap opera fans, can find it difficult to watch such short episodes after being spoiled by network soaps that are hour-long offerings with commercials. In reality, hour-long network programs are actually approximately 40-minutes long, give or take. The rest of the time is allocated to commercials.

So how do viewers take the leap from 40 minutes to anywhere from two minutes to ten minutes? It can be a bit of an adjustment for the viewer at first. But the beauty of a web series is that it is on demand, any time, anywhere. This makes it easy to “binge” watch a show. There are devout fans who wait anxiously for the next episode in a season to be released so they can be the first to see it, Tweet about it, or comment on it. But for those who like more than a few minutes a week, a viewer can sit down and watch an entire season at one time once it has been released.

Many web series creators would love their shows to be picked up by a cable channel. They have prepared their episodes and seasons in such a way that several episodes can easily be strung together to fill a 30-minute or hour-long time slot.

In the meantime, if you are hungry for more than five, seven, or even nine-minute installments a week, waiting until a whole season airs and binge watching can be an alternative. The important thing is to try this new genre on for size and see what there is to offer you as a viewer. You may be pleasantly surprised by the variety of shows, the quality, and the way they get you hooked.

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