First Netflix. Then Hulu and Amazon. Now, AOL is getting into the full-length original series game.
AOL said Tuesday that it plans to produce its first long-form video series, "Connected," a US-adaptation of an Israeli series.
The company is taking more than one cue from Netflix, the leader in subscription streaming video. Not only is AOL moving toward more original programming, which gives it greater control over the content and a bigger slice of the money it generates, but AOL is also taking a successful overseas program and translating it for an unfamiliar US audience. It was Netflix's strategy with its hit "House of Cards," which was based on a UK series.
One fundamental difference: ads.
Video ads are a bull's-eye that CEO Tim Armstrong is aiming for AOL to become the Internet's champ at hitting. With video the fastest-growing ad market on the Web, AOL closed its biggest takeover in years with September's $405 million acquisition of Adap.tv , a company that automates the marketplace of video ads. (Netflix has an ad-free subscription model.)
The online media company also has enlisted A-list celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jonathan Adler to either host or star in original Web series for its AOL On Network, the company's video platform. It has also sealed partnerships with popular networks like ESPN to syndicate clips on AOL Web sites and its AOL On app. AOL's 15 original series launched in 2013 have generated nearly 150 million views to date, the company said.
But those have all been short bites of video. "Connected" is AOL's first long-form series. The wonderful thing about longer forms, for AOL, is it means more ads.
"Connected," the company said, is a documentary series about five seemingly disconnected New Yorkers as they explore the concept of family, with the five parallel stories eventually joining in a cohesive story line. AOL said the original version of "Connected" is one of Israel's highest-rated cable TV series ever.
Gabe Lewis, head of AOL Studios and AOL Originals, said via email that the first season of "Connected" would consist of 20 installments of 22-to-30-minute episodes. The company is eyeing releasing them in small batches of 4 to 5 episodes at a time -- not quite a Netflix-level binge, but not the one-episode-a-week strategy that Amazon has favored.
Filming has not started yet, but "Connected" will debut sometime later this year.