Last week I wrote about the new Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series, which had just released its first episode. The director landed the gig by creating a fake trailer for a nonexistent Mortal Kombat film, which starred some recognizable Hollywood stars, and half a year later he was making his vision into a reality. At the time, I said it represented a bright future for web TV series. I might have been wrong; it might actually represent a bright present day for web series. Just one week has passed, but already Legacy has succeeded. More than that... it's changing the entertainment landscape right before our eyes.
Let's Talk Numbers, Shall We?
Episode 1 of Mortal Kombat: Legacy has been online exactly one week, and as of this writing has amassed 5,769,306 views. That's six million viewers... in one week... and climbing. Not impressed?
Let's look at television... specifically cable networks. Do you know what the most watched cable show was last week according to Nielsen? It was iCarly... followed closely by Pawn Stars (love that show). iCarly scored 7.3 million viewers, while Pawn Stars grabbed 5.9 million. AMC's The Walking Dead--heralded as a ratings success, and that cable network's highest rated show to date--pulled 5.3 million for its premiere last Halloween (the show averaged 3.5 million viewers per episode, with the finale garnering 4.1 million).
So, without having to resort to hyperbole, we now have a web series pulling as many weekly viewers as the top rated cable shows. That's astounding. Quick... name the last web series that got 6 million viewers for a single episode in one week. It's tough, isn't it? Because it's basically never happened.
Even if you compare against traditional network programming, Mortal Kombat: Legacy still looks to be in great shape. It's roughly halfway to 60 Minutes' viewer total of 13.1 million--and 60 minutes is a top ten show! Since Legacy's first episode is likely to remain online for some time to come, it could easily find itself in the double digits of millions of viewers.
Producers released the second Legacy episode yesterday. If you're curious, here it is:
What Does It All Mean?
It means that web series are legitimate. It means that the medium is becoming less important, while the message reigns supreme. It means viewers don't really care where they have to go to get content as long as it speaks to them and is of interest to them. It means we're going to see bigger stars than just Jeri Ryan and Michael Jai White signing up for web series (like Netflix's House of Cards with Kevin Spacy).
Heck... one day soon... we might even see a web series nominated for an Emmy.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves... that's still a ways off.
What Mortal Kombat: Legacy did right that too few web series do is appeal to a built-in audience. There are millions of people who grew up playing Mortal Kombat video games. I'm one of them. Even casual gamers have a familiarity with the property. And because it's been years since we've had a new game in the series, there is a bit of built-in anticipation.
Everyone's talking about YouTube's big push into original professional content, and how hard it's going to be to get television audiences to begin holding web series in the same regard as traditional series... and you know what? Maybe we're already there. Perhaps web series like Mortal Kombat: Legacy are already doing the heavy lifting? Maybe... just maybe... there are already millions of viewers who have already quit caring where quality content comes from, so long as they are able to consume and enjoy it?