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September 8, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Launching Webisodes

A great example of transmedia storytelling, or at least what promises to be, started earlier this week through The Sci Fi Channel's online distribution of mini-episodes of Battlestar Galactica, leading up to the launch of the show's new season on Sci Fi Oct. 6.

The online episodes will be only a few minutes in length, and Sci Fi will feature 10 of them in all, with a new episode made available each Tuesday and Thursday night until the show's first episode on Sci Fi.

An article by Jonathan D. Glater appeared in Tuesday's New York Times about the launch of the new online series, which will "focus on two soldiers in a new city built by humans fleeing Cylons, a race of machines that has wiped out human civilization everywhere."

According to the network's plans, the webisodes will provide information to viewers about the narrative in the fall and will help provide context and motive for decisions characters make when the show launches on television once again in October.

Glater writes, "These Web segments are a bit of a gamble. Sci Fi executives are betting that people who are only glancingly familiar with the series--whose storyline may be too complicated to follow for those who don't know what happened in the first two seasons--will be able to follow the story told online."

The network will also be launching a show called "The Story So Far," a one-hour recap of what has happened on Battlestar Galactica in the first two seasons, to air on Sci Fi, USA Network, Bravo, Sleuth, and Universal HD, all NBC Universal channels, and also be available on the Sci Fi Web site, You Tube, iTunes, Yahoo, and on United Airlines flights and Universal theme parks, according to Glater.

Glater ties this into the problems between NBC Universal and the WGA over webisodes, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

I'm interested in seeing how much of a success these episodes are and if they add any new viewers to Battlestar and/or strengthen the connection with existing fans.

Thanks to William Uricchio for passing the Times article along to me.


My concern is that if these webisodes aren't a big success some will jump to the false conclusion that America isn't read for transmedia storytelling. I have never seen Battlestar Galactica. I've never really had any impulse to start. I'm intrigued by what they're trying to do and yes, probably as close to being interested in watching an episode as I ever have, but that's not saying much and in all likelyhood I still won't see the show online or off. In order for this idea - and it's a good one - to really payoff you'd need A) A series whose predominant fan base is well connected to the Internet, B) A way to get the message out for them to all go there and C) For the stars to be aligned and it all to somehow just pop. Here's hoping that this creative progress, if it isn't a big success, won't give other producers cold feet when the right opportunity really does come along.

Posted by: Henry Jenkins | September 11, 2006 8:59 AM

Henry, I believe you are right. It's like with Snakes on a Plane. You can't raise your expectations too high because you'll inevitably be disappointed. People should expect a moderate success with these webisodes, that some fans will tune in and that they may spread word-of-mouth throughout the fan community. Otherwise, however, the hype can become hyperbole, and then everyone is let down when the numbers don't reach what people expect. I think the webisodes are a great way to build on the primary product and expand the storyworld for those who are interested, especially in sustaining interest for a show over the summer. The industry has to remember that it's taking baby steps and that there's a period of educating the public on new ways a product is being offered and tweaking that system of storytelling based on feedback from viewers.

Posted by: Sam Ford | September 12, 2006 9:18 AM
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