By Sahil Patel
Can a linear TV show be considered an original online series (and vice versa) elsewhere? Sure. Just ask Netflix, which has acquired first-run rights to offer “Mako Mermaids,” a spin-off of the successful Australian kids TV franchise “H20: Just Add Water,” in all of the territories the streaming service is available in.
Produced by Jonathan M. Shiff Productions in association with Screen Australia, Network Ten, ZDF Enterprises, and Screen Queensland, “Mako Mermaids” begins where “H20: Just Add Water” left off. The series follows three teenage mermaids as they attempt to prevent a 16-year-old boy from becoming a merman. Netflix says “H20” is a favorite among Netflix members (and their kids) in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, and the Nordics.
The deal was brokered by ZDF Enterprises, which is in charge of international distribution for the series.
At first glance, this looks like one of Netflix’s usual exclusive licensing deals for a successful TV franchise. Except, Netflix will make “Mako Mermaids” available to all members on July 26, the same day it premieres on TV in Australia. The deal covers exclusive streaming rights for the first two seasons, which will consist of 26 episodes in total (the first 13 will show up on July 26, the other 13 in September).
So as long as we’re not talking about the Australian market (which Netflix doesn’t have a presence in), then this can be basically qualified as semi-original property for the streaming service.
Admittedly, this is a bit of language-gymnastics. But it points to something that online video and TV producers may be more mindful of going forward — that just because they are producing content for a certain platform, it doesn’t mean the content is only intended for that platform.
We’ve already seen how producers like Vuguru package and distribute their original programming, as well as how web series like “Burning Love” are recut to air on TV. Or how “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn” is available as a multi-part series on Machinima but a full-length movie on Netflix. Same goes for the first season of “Video Game High School” (and with the second season spanning 120 minutes, it might get the same treatment when it arrives on Netflix).
There will always be content that is siloed into being a “web series” or a “TV show.” And to be fair, Netflix wants us to consider its original slate to be TV, just available via a streaming platform. But when we start talking about what people like to refer to as “premium programming,” then it becomes a different discussion.
There is a lot of talk about the walls of video consumption breaking down as viewers become increasingly screen-agnostic. You can start to make the same case for how the industry approaches and defines traditional production and distribution models.