We touched briefly on Battlestar Galactica‘s webisodes on Monday: 10 three-minute dramas put out over the Internet to entice people into watching the third season of BSG. Unlike Doctor Who‘s mobisodes, these were most popular indeed, with 5.5 million people streaming them compared with the 2.2 million who turned up for BSG‘s third-season premiere. All this kind of backs up my point: if you’re prepared to invest creatively in something, even if it’s three minutes long, people are far more likely to watch it – and even pay for it eventually.
The trouble is the webisodes were almost too good: at three times the length of a Doctor Who mobisode and with a ten-episode arc, they were effectively an episode of BSG in and of themselves. But NBC, which owns the SciFi Channel, is refusing to paying any of the writers for their hard work, on the grounds the mobisodes are promotional material, not series content. So now exec producer Ron Moore and the writers have decided to hold the webisodes hostage and are refusing to make any more in future unless they get paid for their work.
Which comes to another point: if you’re going to invest creatively in something, you’re going to have to invest money as well. “360º commissioning” as it’s known needs to have a budget to match if it’s going to work.
PS Scott, over on TV Today, argues that two of the advantages BSG has over Doctor Who when it comes to making mobisodes/webisodes are “long term standing sets and a large regular cast list”, which enable the producers to film additional content when required.
All true to some extent, although it should be pointed out that the main cast members involved in the webisodes were also the main characters in the first four third-season episodes, so everything had to be squeezed in something chronic while they were filming those episodes (to find out who did what and for more details, Ron Moore’s blog gives credits and explanations).
Also, the standing sets used were short-term, rather than long-term, since they’re probably not going to be needed post episode four (no spoilers, my friends, I promise). So BSG had no real advantage over Doctor Who in producing its webisodes this time round. And let’s not forget that lovely TARDIS set Doctor Who has had for nearly three years now: Doctor Who is running out of excuses…