A Webertainment Flop

Unless you've been camping in Siberia or buried beneath an old stack of National Geographics, you've probably heard of "quarterlife." The drama about a blogger and her group of friends scored big as an internet hit on NBC.com. It got the suits excited enough to move it to a NBC network time slot (a primo one at that). And it landed flatter than John McCain's crony-studded "victory" speech after the Super Tuesday primaries.

Last week's premiere of "quarterlife" hit a 17-plus-year low for NBC, despite a hot reality series lead-in and a prized 10 p.m. time slot. The results were so bad that NBC yanked the series from its broadcast schedule, foisted it on NBC-owned Bravo and set bloggers everywhere yakking about whether such webertainment can make it in the "big leagues" of regular TV.

If you saw even a few minutes of "quarterlife" on NBC, we bet you'd agree with us: No way ... at least, not yet. In its current form, webertainment is designed for the micro-mini attention spans of under-thirty somethings multitasking on the ‘net. It is not a "sit down and watch" kind of experience. Which helps explain why "quarterlife" died so quickly on network TV.

But does this signal a red light for web-to-TV programming? Hardly. Just two days after "quarterlife" got the boot, Disney announced its new "Stage 9 Digital Media," devoted to the launching of original online entertainment. (Twenty such programs are now in the works. The first, "Squeegees," is already up and running with ads from Toyota.) Most other big studios have similar projects underway. And no wonder. With an estimated cost of as little as $200,000 per series, webertainment comes in at a fraction of the cost of "regular" TV. So expect the webertainment wheel to keep turning, and growing, and stealing eyeballs from its older network siblings. But as for producing the kind of entertainment that can make a hit on the boob tube .... Ah, for now at least, you'd be better off camping in Siberia.