Only in a Web series would inebriation and The Legend of Zelda be a match made in heaven. But ever since a gas-station attendant woke up hungover inside the classic Nintendo game nearly two years ago, Legend of Neil has been one of Atom.com's most successful franchises.
The campy live-action series, now in its third and final season, highlights Atom's evolution over the past decade from user-generated indie film shorts to professionally produced comedy series. In 2006, MTV Networks acquired Atom for $200 million, to serve in part as an idea incubator for its cable nets. Recent hit series 5-On, for example, became Comedy Central's Ugly Americans, and Atom has its own popular (for 2:30 a.m.) weekly showcase on the channel. "One of the things that [creators] are hoping to do is catch the networks' eye," says Scott Roesch, Atom's general manager.
Atom stockpiles the best of its year-round slate for the fourth quarter, much like a TV network. Yet it retains a Web flavor by sharing ad revenue with its creators and partnering with them in hybrid Web-TV deals. For example, Atom is working with Waverly Films, the trio behind its former Web series Stickman Exodus (stick figures in a kid's notebook go on a freedom quest) to create a series called The Fuzz, a cop show set in a city where humans and puppets coexist. Roesch explains, "We pooled some budget and had them do a Web series instead of going through normal TV development." The Fuzz is expected to air on Atom later this year.