Besides generally thrusting online video into full gold-rush mode, the acquisition of YouTube by Google back in October helped boost the profile of Blame Society Productions, the Madison-based short-film studio operated by Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda. Sloan and Yonda are notorious as the creators of the Chad Vader series. That monster business deal coincided with the release of Chad Vader Episode 4 barely a day later, when segments debuted on ABC's "Good Morning America." The team behind the series is gearing up to release the fifth episode, a debut that serendipitously coincides with another online milestone.
As reported one week ago, MySpace outstripped Yahoo's monthly traffic in November, 2006. As reported in a release by analyst comScore Media Metrix, the social networking site owned by News Corporation recorded some 38.7 billion page views in the U.S. last month, slightly above the 38.1 billion recorded for Yahoo. This news comes as competition over online video is rapidly reaching a boil, with MySpace promoting its video component more aggressively and AOL launching a broad-based television commercial campaign for their service.
In the midst of this cyclone are the content creators, particularly those producing work that is much less likely to put the online video companies at copyright risk than those simply ripping and posting the latest episode of "The Colbert Report." The YouTubes, MySpaces and much smaller upstarts are all wooing high-profile video creators to post work to their sites, hoping to build their brand as the place to find the latest video phage. Sloan and Yonda are at the top of this talent list, and the next chapter in the Chad Vader saga is getting an exclusive 24-hour run on the ascendant social network.
Sometime late in the evening of Monday, Dec. 18 or, at the latest, in the early hours of Tuesday, Dec. 19, Chad Vader Episode Five will be published exclusively to MySpace. Aaron Yonda says of the premiere: "They're going to put it on the front page, and Tom [Anderson, co-founder of MySpace and ubiquitous "friend"] is going to send out a bulletin that includes a link to the video post." It will be posted exclusively on that site for the next 24 hours, after which the Splu team will be publishing the video to YouTube and their own site as well. (And if anybody tries to republish it elsewhere during that first day, they'll request for its removal.)
"They're looking for ways to create traffic and build their image," Yonda says of their MySpace premiere and the company's reasoning behind it. They want "to get more people to check out what they're doing," he continues. With the social networking boasting well over 100 million accounts, he is particularly enthused about the bulletin going to its members. "If only one or two percent of those people click the link," Yonda notes, "it's going to be a huge amount of hits." More details about the debut are available in the press release available in the related downloads at right.
Yonda says that Blame Society has been approached by online video providers ever since they started the Chad Vader series. "The thing we get the most is email from someone who is saying, 'I'm starting up an online video site, and I think your videos would be great for it,'" he says. "We get at least five of those a week. I think everyone is starting their own online video site now."
One element of this ever-increasing exposure for the Vader series is the specter of Lucasfilms, and its attitude to this series, which has grown well beyond a fan film. "That's a big worry of mine," Yonda says, "that we're just going to get shut down." That's one reason that he emphasizes the deals Blame Society is striking with companies like MySpace is in terms of publicity, and not money. He also notes that their DVD sales are dedicated towards covering the budget. "We're not really making any money off of it," Yonda says.
In the end, the fact that Matt Sloan lent his voice as Darth Vader to a licensed Star Wars video game shows that the operation behind Chad's more confident and capable brother is well aware of this online hit coming out of Madison. "Obviously if they were upset about it," Yonda says, "they would have told us to stop doing it at that point and they didn't."
As for this new episode, the man behind Chad Vader's mask is confident. "If we get a couple of million hits on MySpace, I imagine we'll get more offers."
There's already quite a bit of stuff on the way, including very brief videos that will likely find their way into the extras on a future release of a Chad Vader DVD set. These include the title character presenting a "video holiday card greeting" from inside his Christmas palace, along with a New Year's Eve countdown clip, both of which will soon be featured on YouTube. They'll subsequently be featured on VH1's "50 Greatest Internet Superstars," which will first be aired in early February 2007. That's likely only the start, though, as the Blame Society team gears up for a new year.