Wednesday, 4 May 2011

What's in a Name? "Web Series" vs "Indie TV"

What's in a name?  Asked Juliet, innocently.  But the question had several key players in the world of web series stumbling about for an hour during today's #WebSeriesChat on Twitter.

First some background.  #WebSeriesChat is a Twitter channel founded by Patrick Bardwell and hosted by @Slebisodes and @MingleMediaTV.  It runs every Wednesday at 7pm GMT for an hour and, because of the nature of Twitter, generally starts early and overruns a bit.  You can find some more information here and here and you can get Twitter here:

The last few weeks in #WebSeriesChat have seen the same question crop up:

Should Web Series be referred to as Web Series, or something else?

There appear to be two main schools of thought:

  1. People who come from a TV background, or prefer conventional media strategy, seem to focus on renaming Web Series to include the "TV" acronym.  A particularly popular name is Indie TV, which essentially means Independent Television.  There is an argument that suggests sticking to the well-known TV acronym will help web series to take off (as opposed to having to sell the idea of web series as an entirely new concept to the masses)
  2. The rest are focussed on the medium, rather than the device, and wish to keep Web or Internet or some identifier to describe the medium through which web series are accessed.  I've the terms Web Show and Webisode (with a shudder) from this school, although I personally feel both these options narrow the original Web Series (a show is a subset of a series; a webisode (if such a thing should be allowed to exist) is, presumably an episode within a web show?).  Throughout, I do feel there is a definite resistance to losing the medium identity.  After all, Indie TV could be viewed on a conventional TV set, right?
So what's in a name?  Why all this fuss?  Well "Web Series" as a concept is relatively new.  Granted, people have been making online "series", be they audio shows converted from radio, flash animation series (everyone see Stick Death?), blogs or vlogs for many years.  And all of these can classify as web series, under the implied definition that a web series is a series of {some undefined entity} on the web.  But when I say, or hear, or read the term "Web Series" now, I think of actual shows, akin to the conventional TV shows, viewable solely on the web.

The key focus for me here is the word solely, which is sorely lacking in oratory and literary power (it just kinda flops out of your mouth).  But without the word "solely" here, I would be quite happy to lay down and let the School 1 people take over and rename Web Series to Indie TV.

Well, I wouldn't be that happy.  Let's be honest, Web Series is now a meme.  To rename it now would be foolish, counter-productive and tantamount to web series treason.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Allow me to explain, because I am conscious that you won't read much further, and I don't want to lose you before you understand where I'm coming from...

By focussing on the term solely, I'm merely referring to the difference between, say, Blood and Bone China (which is, incidentally, a very good British web series, set in 19th Century Stoke-on-Trent) and the TV series Lost, which, I've been assured, can be seen online on sites such as Hulu* and NetFlix*.  In my opinion, Lost is a TV Series, which has been made available on the web.  Blood and Bone China is a Web Series, which may, in the fullness of time, be made available on the TV or on film.

So I urge you: Drop the "TV".  TV suggests it can be viewed on a Television set, which it can't (yes, I know you can get web-enabled TVs now, but that's not the point I'm making).  The term also brings with it certain preconceptions, such as adverts - I could talk for a while about my views on advertising strategy in web series, but I'll save it for another day... (I heard that sigh of relief!).

What about the term Indie?  This one is tricky for me.  Yes, most web series today are produced by independent, non-studio, non-corporate bodies and people.  However, do you not agree that branding all current and future web series productions as "Indie" could result in a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby all future web series are independent, non-studio, non-corporate bodies, too?

Don't get me wrong here, I'll happily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with most of you with a pitchfork pointed at corporate interference and "the man".  One only has to look at the censorship of Warner Brothers' Web Series "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" to see an example of what corporations can bring to the table - who censors a web series?  I mean, come on!  It's not like the internet has a watershed!


I have to agree with @PurseDogTV's comment on this evening's #WebSeriesChat: 

"[The] longterm goal is to legitimize & expand this art form. It's not better/worse/bigger/smaller...just newer.".   

To legitimise web series is to embrace all forms of web series.  Independent and corporate.  With that in mind I urge you to reconsider using the term Indie.

And so we come back to the original question: What's in a name?  Well, quite a lot, it turns out.

* Please note that I don't include any links to either site because they are only "legally" available to residents of the USA and, therefore, go against my Net Neutrality ethic.

Last updated: 05/05/2011 13:01


  1. Good post and continuation of today's #webserieschat. I tend to try and think of the next term being more about what "most" people will understand it and where they will view it. I think on will be watching their TV and flip channels and not know if something was produced for TV originally or for the web. It will all just be considered content.

    The other angle is what's more marketable and able to be adopted to the masses.....again, it's the term TV. Everyone know what it is. Yes, a lot of people are viewing more content online, but they are also watching more TV than ever before.

    So, I think at some point the term "TV" will have to be included in whatever this morphs into.

    I'm fine with the term kind of gives it a sexier, edgier appeal.

    Patrick Bardwell
    President of Slebisodes

  2. One benefit of IndieTV I didn't mention is that it contains fewer characters than WebSeries, and is therefore easier to use on Twitter =)

    Thanks for your comment, Patrick

  3. Not to split hairs but #WebSeriesChat is also co-hosted every week by Stephanie of @MingleMediaTV (producer of IndieTV: live & produced) and We have a Facebook page where we post up the links and reminders for the weekly event.


  4. Stephanie, my sincere apologies. I will amend the story.

  5. I am constantly debating this issue with fellow web series makers. I call it web series and web shows with little distinction between the two (just like I do with TV shows... or series?) I like internet or online series, but they are long and boring!

    I do believe that "web series" will just get a little dated when most TVs are connected to the internet and the web is not the web any longer and it's not online. I can't remember the last time I typed www in a url. Now I am online constantly, with my phone or the laptop I use to watch TV content (cord-cutter here), I don't think about it as the web any longer, it is just the "online".

    But just as you, I respect the fact that "web series" or "web show" has some etymological importance to it.

    The format and medium are still evolving. I'm sure the debate is not over and as the format evolves and changes new opportunities for new names will arise. That is what is fun about it! We are all inventing it!

    Thanks for the post

  6. Hi Javier,

    Thanks for your comment. I had a look at after this week's #webserieschat, because of your "3 ideas" post - very interesting and I think most of my favourite webseries are following (or have followed) all three points, even if they don't realise it.

    I enjoyed your urge to avoid categorising webseries as the new "short film", too ( I think it's important to avoid giving webseries a restrictive label, hence my concern about the word "Indie".

    I expect you're right that this debate will rage for a while. Until then, I'm just going to keep calling them webseries with a grin!