Part of their future plans may or may not be a leap into television. We somehow get onto the subject of the strange fall and rise and fall again of Nobody's Watching, the failed WB television pilot that found success online, only to be reportedly picked up again by NBC, then quietly dropped again. "It's funny, everyone's desperate for a cross-platform success story," Spiridellis says. Does JibJab hope to be that, I ask? "No, we're totally focused on digital. I don't care about TV."
I point out the irony of that statement, considering we're at a television festival, so he qualifies: "The problem is I would never get to do TV the way I want to do it."
Some of the advantages he sees to Internet programming include spontaneity and creative freedom. "We can think of something, create it, produce it, and get it out to an audience within six weeks right now. We can be more irreverent with our humor."
"The odds of having any kind of real success on TV are so small that to be focused on that wouldn't make sense for us now, because we have millions of people coming to our website every month," he continues. "We can program for them. And if we do our job there well, there may be opportunities in television."
So it seems television isn't completely off their radar, though not in their immediate future. "If I can build an audience for a show online and get consistently millions of viewers every week to my website, then all of a sudden it becomes a very different proposition when we go to television networks and say hey, we've got this big audience and we want to do this show," he comments at one point. "The web gives some leverage to the creators that you don't typically have in the television development or production cycle, but also takes the risk out of the equation for television production and networks."
The future of television
Whatever JibJab's plans, they seem to be well-positioned to continue creating content for a constantly shifting distribution system. At the Festival and elsewhere, some sky-is-falling scenarios have been predicted, with audiences fleeing television for the web, and new but unknown business models facing the television industry in the years to come. Spiridellis isn't so pessimistic about the future of television, though he's got a cautionary word about the future of networks and studios. "I think it's a really exciting time for creators. I also think the whole production model has got to change."