For those of us who have watched the development of Jane Espenson and Brad Bell’s online sitcom Husbands, the story of a gay actor and a gay baseball player who wake up married in Vegas and decide to make a go of it, over the past several years, we’ve got some exciting news. After one season funded privately by Espenson, a second supported by a Kickstarter campaign, the CW has decided to pick up the existing episodes through distribution through its digital platforms, and to make more of the show:
After rolling out short-form comedy “Stupid Hype” and micro celeb newsmag “CelebTV,” CW is moving forward with a broad development slate that includes “Reno-911”-meets-”X-Files” comedy “P.E.T. Squad,” and migrating popular Web series “Husbands” over to the CW digital platforms. “‘Husbands’ has been a critically-acclaimed, user-friendly YouTube series for two seasons,” said Rick Haskins, exec veep of marketing and digital programs at CW. “By bringing that to the CW, we hope to bring new fans over to the network and to CW broadcast shows as well.”
A borrowed equity strategy like the one employed with “Husbands” is the name of Haskins’ game at the network. The CW understands that when building an online following, it must tap into pre-existing fan bases in order to transition viewers over to the digital platforms. “Stupid Hype,” the CW’s first show to be launched through CWD, cast “Hart of Dixie” star Wilson Bethel for the shorts, hoping to draw fans from his broadcast series over to CWTV.com. The net also offered on-air ad spots promoting “Stupid Hype” and “CelebTV,” encouraging viewers to hit the Web for digital content.
And there’s some discussion that successful online shows might become full-fledged programs for broadcast. It’s always made sense to me that broadcast television would begin using successful online shows as a development pool. It lets the networks spend less money on ideas that don’t go anywhere, and gives them a chance to see what kind of audience a concept can attract when it’s available to everyone, and advertised only by social media and word of mouth. The CW, given both its belief that online viewing is key to its business, and its ratings woes in broadcasts, is a fairly logical place to start. I’m just glad it’s gambling on Husbands, a kind of story that started online because networks weren’t ready for it.