Gemini Division a Litmus Test for Old Media, New Media

When Gemini Division premieres on Monday, the show won’t just be the debut series for NBC’s new digital studio; it will be a litmus test for whether old media can play successfully in web video.

This web show has the weight of the traditional media world on its shoulders: In my opinion, the success or failure of Gemini Division will be critical for the web video economy in general and for traditional media in particular. CBS owns Moblogic, Sony inked a distribution deal just last week with Rocketboom, and for such marriages to continue, Gemini Division must thrive.

That’s because the show has all the ingredients one theoretically needs for programming success. For starters, big name star Rosario Dawson is fronting the show. Second, NBC has snagged major brand advertisers in Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Acura and UPS. (C’mon, we don’t see that quintet advertising in Web video too often). Third, the show has a broadcast network’s muscles behind it.

This all means Gemini Division better be a big fat hit or else the ABCs, Sonys, and Warner Brothers of the world could very well start to lose interest in content creation for the Web video medium.

After all, if a web show like Gemini Division fails, why bother investing in online video?

But I think the show has a good chance at becoming a big breakout hit.

There’s a lot of buzz online about the show. And while NBC hasn’t said what it paid digital media studio Electric Farm Entertainment to create the show, the show’s financial model seems to makes sense; ad money pulled in in advance of production helped finance the show. “We won’t greenlight until we have brands lined up who want to be in the show,” said Cameron Death, VP of NBC Universal Digital Studio.

Landing a celebrity is becoming de rigeur, too, because a star brings in a ready-made audience. Look for more Web shows to do this. The creators behind The Writers Room on Crackle told me recently that in order for Crackle to pick up a second season the show will need a heavy celebrity cameo quotient.

The celebrity component was critical to NBC too. “When I look at us as a network we are about A-list talent, high-end production and the ability to create a safe place for brands to play,” Death said. “Having Rosario Dawson attached makes that an easier conversation to have.”

Now it’s up to the potential audience of Gemini Division. And let’s hope the audience grows over the show’s 50 episodes because the web video economy could use a healthy influx of ad dollars from additional brand advertisers who might become more interested in the medium thanks to a Gemini Division success.

Daisy Whitney is a contributing writer with TelevisionWeek and the host of the New Media Minute, a weekly webcast on the business of online video.