OK, I'm going to put out my broad definition of web series. For the purposes of things I post, when I refer to "web series", I'm referring to serialized shows that are intended to be watched via a device that connects to the interwebz. So this very broad definition includes (for me) not only your YouTube friendly shows, but those shown on channels such as Kold Cast , Blip, Vimeo, and, yes, Netflix and Hulu.
This may show my age (I'm twenty. Twenty, I tell you) but I remember when online videos were actually just cute annoying home videos that were for families to enjoy while the rest of us pretended to be fascinated that Bobby could now count to thirty. Then, they evolved into mini episodes of your favourite TV show (translation: available through your cable package chock full of commercials) usually involving a secondary character but mostly designed to carry the audience through to next season.
But not-so-quietly breaking ground outside of this realm came the gamechangers. Now, you may not agree with my picks on this front but in my opinion, these guys kick the door open for the rest of us. Felicia Day and Joss Whedon. Felicia Day, after realizing that her online gaming addiction was proving more steady than Hollywood, wrote, produced, and starred in "The Guild". Using the age-old adage of writing what she knew, it's about online gamers. From it's humble beginnings (all those names in the credits are people who donated to the production) to it's uber-huge presence on Netflix and XBox, that show paved the way for creators who were sick of the traditional gatekeepers.
Then came a musical blog by Joss Whedon. "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog" was created while the WGA strike was raging a few years ago. Basically, Joss wanted to be working on something. So did his friends. So he called up his buddies to see if they wanted to play. For free. And behold, the awesomeness which is Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day singing about superheroes, villainy, and love was born. The three part series was released slowly over a month or so and proved so popular that not only did it win awards, it broke the internet. Seriously, the mountains of viewers disabled the site's servers. Constantly.
And now here we are. Everything is viewed online. Videos are the key to business even outside the film world. Just look at any moderately current website. There's probably a video on there. I count myself lucky that the Toronto web series community is one of the best in the world. Don't believe me? Do some Googling of "Out With Dad", "Clutch", "Mircowave Porn", "Pretty in Geek", or "Pete Winning and The Pirates". These indie productions are mostly self-funded a la Dr. Horrible and are garnering a ton of international and national attention.
While these shows are entering their second and third seasons, a whole new crop of series are breaking out of the gate. It's an exciting time for indie producers and creators. People are watching and sharing. And the big wigs are taking notice. So much so, the big studios are funding their own web series but that's a whole other post. So let's suit up and show 'em what we've got.