Eric Johnson

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Taking a Cue From “House of Cards,” Machinima Releases Its Next “Mortal Kombat” Series All at Once on YouTube

If you’re a gamer or a big YouTube video-viewer, you might have heard of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy,” an online video series that aims to add modern story sensibilities to the classic fighting game.

The first season of the series was doled out in nine discrete episodes between April and July 2011. For the second season, the show’s online distributor, Machinima, is today publishing the show in one go, a la Netflix, which has reported that that strategy is paying off for its original series like “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.”

Machinima CEO Allen DeBevoise said Machinima’s target audience of 18-to-35-year-old men would enjoy “18 or 19 of the Top 20” shows that online viewers binge on, like “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter” and “Game of Thrones.”

“There’s some outliers, like ‘Downton Abbey,'” he said.

As online video studios wrestle with how to keep growing ad revenue on YouTube, Machinima has been looking for a “mega-round” of new investment to bolster a growing focus on original shows like “Mortal Kombat: Legacy.” Just last week, however, the video network laid off 10 percent of its staff “in connection with” that growth plan.

Each of the “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” episodes is about 10 minutes long, but director Kevin Tancharoen said he’d like to see them get past the TV-drama-esque 45-minute mark in future seasons. The series started when Tancharoen, the director of films like “Fame” and “Glee 3D,” released an eight-minute fan film, “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth,” on YouTube:

Machinima and Warner Bros., which owns the rights to Mortal Kombat, took notice, and the first season of their resulting collaboration has racked up more than 60 million views on YouTube. While that first season was tied in with WB Interactive’s game-series reboot of Mortal Kombat, the new season is about “keeping the Mortal Kombat name out there and keeping fans engaged,” Tancharoen said.

“Mortal Kombat: Legacy” director Kevin Tancharoen, right, with Peter Kafka at D: Dive Into Media 2012.

To that end, Tancharoen is working on a movie based on the series, to be released theatrically in 2015 by Warner Bros., without Machinima’s involvement. He said the stories of the ongoing “Legacy” series and the eventual movie will be kept separate, so that theatergoers don’t have to watch dozens of YouTube videos before they buy their popcorn.

DeBevoise said Machinima does not pay Tancharoen directly. Rather, the online video company has a licensing deal with Warner Bros., which in turn pays Tancharoen. This is different from Machinima’s other relationships with creatives under its brand — a partnership with Ridley Scott’s production company RSA, for example, will grant ownership of the resulting short films to those directors as official partners to the video network.

Here’s the trailer for the new series and the first episode. You can find the rest at the “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” YouTube channel:

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik