Nowadays it is hard to escape the growing success of web series. Web series gather more that ten millions of views on the Internet, through the usual video sharing platforms (Youtube, Dailymotion..), through TV channels sites (France 4, Arte..) and even through dedicated sites (Frenchnerd, Noobtv…). Web series are now well represented within award lists of TV Festivals (Luchon, La Rochelle..) besides traditional audiovisual productions and tv documentaries which testifies of their increased artistic visibility.
Producing web series
Web series constitute a new audiovisual format, mainly characterized by the shortness of the produced episodes (mostly duration are under ten minutes per episode) and the necessity for the creators to gather a wide online fan community.
Many web series are auto-produced. Nonetheless if most of them are amateur productions, some of them stand out for their professional aspects. Such professional quality comes naturally with a minimum production cost. In this way Gwendal Biscueil and Arnaud D’ancona indicate that they produced their 5 episodes series “Gabriel” for a sum of 7000 euros. This sum was principally allocated to the post-production and special effects costs and marketings expenses. For the series shooting they benefited from volunteer assistance of friends, former students of their cinema school, already professionally active.
From a legal perspective, any production - even based on friendship and volunteerism - must establish an audiovisual production company responsible for the material organization of the shooting and post-production of the series. This is particularly important to develop the series (as an example by developing the story over several seasons) and essential to secure the production and the exploitation of the series.
As an example the french production of “Mortus Corporatus” (10 episodes - season 1), staring professional actors with a 30 000 euros budget, was produced by a production company, AnderAnderA. In order to complete this project, the producers have made intensive researches for local partnerships in order to reduce the production’s costs (free accommodation, catering, shooting locations…) besides public subsidies and private fundings. According to the total budget, the production of such a series would not have been possible without the existence of a legal structure.
Funding web series
Thanks to the increasing success of the web series new the producers have different financing opportunities that may be public or private.
1. French Public supports
French Public TV channels are very reactive towards web series’ development and offer dedicated websites to broadcast web series they finance. It is notably the case for the websites France TV Nouvelle écritures http://nouvelles-ecritures.francetv.fr/) and Studio 4 (http://www.france4.fr/studio-4/ ) for the audiovisual group France Télévisions and Arte Créative (http://creative.arte.tv/fr) for the French-German channel. These channels launch calls for projects but may also receive web series’ proposals. It is nonetheless understood that such proposals must be part of transmedia projects, which means being conceived with a plurality of medias.
By the public authorities a decree dated February 22nd 2012 provides the awarding of:
Support for the preparation and production of works specifically designed for new media (internet, mobiles)
Supports for the preparation of works designed for exploitation both in the traditional medias (as the television) and the new medias, as long as such transmedia works are form a coherent and global narrative universe.
Authors an/or producers may submit their applications for funding to the National Center for Cinematography that takes funding decisions four times a year. Indeed the multimedia fund has two parts: a writing and development support (capped at 50% of the development budget and up to a maximum of 20 000 euros) and a production support (capped at 50% of the production budget and up to a maximum of 100 000 euros). Note however that this production support is incompatible with other aid from the CNC, especially with the Web Cosip.
To support the production of web series CNC has also set up a Web COSIP, conceived on the model of the cinema support fund. Thus, Web COSIP allows on the one hand the reinvestment by the producers of their support funds in web series' production and on the other hand to generate some support funds in proportion of the duration of the web series that they produced.
Beside such measure, we can also mention another specific financial support mechanism from the CNC dedicated to experimental works that include innovative writings and specifically involving the use of multimedia and digital technologies. This mechanism for multimedia and digital artistic creation (DICRéAM) is open for authors who wish to finance the development of their projects, as well as for the producers for the production’s financing.
Some regional and local authorities are not far behind. We can thus report the initiative of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region that offers a call for projects via the Support Fund for the digital artistic creation" (SCAN), in favor of authors and producers located in its territory.
More generally, web series' producers can also benefit from filming aids that many regions offer. Such filming aid may be financial but also consist of benefit in kind such as free filming locations.
2. Private supports
For its part, the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD) has implemented in 2015 a "Web Series' Fund" which takes over from "Fiction 2.0" and disposes of a sum of € 100,000 to be distributed between 15 to 20 projects. The advantage of this annual call for projects is to be reserved exclusively to funding a full season (covering at least 6 episodes). The funding may be dedicated either to an original feature or the next season of an existing web-series.
The SACD also offers an annual session for the authors who want to benefit from a « Transmedia grant ». This grant succeeds to a precedent grant « Orange innovative formats », who was delivered by the Beaumarchais Association, SACD and Orange company. The « Transmedia grant » amounts to 7000 euros and intends to support the writing of transmedia works. Accordingly the grant excludes web series to be broadcasted on a single medium. However, this grant is reserved only for authors. The amount is complemented by a personalized support system. Thus the authors are accompanied in their efforts to promote their work to professionals and may benefit from additional aids available under conditions.
Last, and also maybe least, some crowdfunding platforms (tous coprod, Ulule, KissKissBankBank…) offer their know-how to web series’ creator and producers. Looking at the figures, the amounts harvested seem generally modest, between 5000 and 1000 euros and thus maybe insufficient to fully fund the production of the episodes. Furthermore such form of financing seems better suited to existing web series that have already federated around them a true community of viewers motivated to contribute to the continuation of the adventure! Then we can mention the amazing example of "Noob" a French web series whose producers have gathered € 680,000 via the platform Ulule, after asking only for € 35,000.
3. Authors’ remuneration
Except from web series produced by production company such as Studio 4, Arte interactive, Canal OTT or GM6 which are subsidiaries or internet divisions of wide broadcasting groups, the remuneration of web series' creators is essentially constituted by advertising revenues collected and allocated by video sharing platforms (YouTube, Dailymotion ...) and, since recently, by the perception of copyright royalties paid by SACD, SCAM and SACEM.
According to information that we can read and hear in the press and provided by YouTubers themselves, advertising revenue to come from repayments by the platforms would be between 80 cents and one euro every 1000 views. As for the royalties, the copyright agencies do not communicate the amounts paid to the authors. According the statements made by some authors on the Internet, the amount will be approximately of 1,50 euros every 1000 views. We can also note that regarding the broadcasting of interactive web documentaries an agreement has been entered between SCAM, Arte, France Télévisions and Radio France. Authors perceive a fixed fee (independent from the number of views or the length of the viewing) from approximately 300 € to 500 € depending on the type of broadcaster (2013 figures).
Finally we have to underline that even for the web series produced by the aforementioned channels as Arte or Canal +, with budget may be close to one millions euros, the guaranteed minimums paid to authors are generally between 5000 and 10 000 euros. These sums are far lower than the amounts due to authors on traditional projects. This is partly explained by the large number of authors who collaborate on web series’ projects, but not only. Indeed, the established budgets remain weak given the ambitious filming requirements, and are regularly restricted due to the number of intermediaries such as Canal OTT / Studio / TV Production company / New digital production company. This currently explains that the practice is not established in favor of the authors. Moreover, since 2013 the Memorandum on contractual practices between fiction's authors and producers provides that the original work bonus is not mandatory for the short format series (i.e. serie with episodes with duration under or equal to five minutes). Nonetheless many web series prefer durations above 5 minutes.
In conclusion, the web series' creators have now a wide range of financial supports at their disposal and spark undeniable interest of TV channels. However to avoid any legal setbacks, the creators need to professionalize quickly their activities and take advice to better organize their production according to the applicable legal framework.