CBS’ experiment in Web-only content started in May and has received largely favorable reviews. The ten minute episodes star Arrested Development’s Michael Cera and Cera’s buddy Clark Duke, who play fictionalized versions of themselves as they try to sell a pilot for their television show.
So what’s the verdict on the show’s online marketing campaign?
The show’s official site is not search optimized but that’s not so much of a problem when you’ve got CBS promotional power. Along with the episodes, the site features a blog written in first person by, presumably, Cera and Duke themselves.
With admittedly incomplete data (July data is not included) from Compete.com, the clarkandmichael.com site enjoyed 22,000 visits a month in June, up from about 4,000 visits from its launch month in May:
The site enjoyed fairly deep engagement, with 3.3 pages per visit by June:
The clarkandmichael.com site has 315 other sites linking to it.
The show’s MySpace page boasts 3,340 friends, a rather underwhelming albeit imprecise measurement.
The YouTube stats are probably a better indication of the show’s popularity online. The uploads by CBS are notable because the network has allowed embedding code for them so YouTube users can copy and paste an episode into their Web sites or blogs. That’s a practice traditional television has been loath to use. Here’s episode two:
The stats for the CBS uploads have been mixed, however. The above episode enjoyed 14,500 views while episode 6 garnered only 730 views.
The show’s own YouTube channel, however, has enjoyed a much stronger viewership. None of the eight videos uploaded to the channel are actual episodes of the show. Those eight videos enjoyed a total of 130,627 views from 518 subscribers as of this writing.
The YouTube channel was established long before the launch of the Clark and Michael show, however; it was used to share the duo’s comedy sketches and stand-up routines. Clark and Michael, therefore, had already built a base video audience and the loyalty of those viewers carried through when the show launched. The six uploads prior to the show averaged about 16,000 views each; the two uploads promoting the show averaged 18,000 views.
Strangely, neither CBS nor the Clark and Michael YouTube channels bothered to create a playlist for the show; an oversight that would seem a natural, particularly since CBS is allowing embedding of the shows.
These numbers aren’t phenomenal by any means but the show is a fascinating experiment, regardless. Is this simply CBS piloting a potential on-air show? Are they testing the waters of online-only content? All of the above?
I do believe this is a glimpse of the future of television programming. I think more and more we’ll see shorter, more focused entertainment such as Clark and Michael.
The most obvious question is one of revenue: How do you make money with content that will eventually be downloaded to your HDTV via RSS? Will such audiences balk at pre-roll TV ads? Are these product placement vehicles? One Arrested Development show’s storyline, remember, revolved around the Sidekick II telephone. Will such content support a subscription revenue model?
Those questions remain but the experiments, happily, continue.