03/26/2014 02:25 EDT | Updated 05/26/2014 05:59 EDT

Web-TV series promoting Winnipeg getting a few thousand views per episode

WINNIPEG - An Internet sitcom that received more than $200,000 in public funding to help promote the Manitoba capital has not exactly gone viral.

With just over 3,000 views for its most recent episodes, WindCity appears to be less popular than YouTube videos telling Manitobans to brush their teeth or depicting public fist fights.

But the show's creator is confident the audience will grow.

"It's not like an ad in a paper that, you know, is here today and gone tomorrow. This will always exist online," Paul Vieira said Wednesday.

"People can become fans of the show forever."

Vieira's company, Starfish Media, launched WindCity in January. It's the tale of a couple in the midst of a divorce who are also trying to start up a new business in a vibrant, fun city. The show was aimed at promoting a positive image of Winnipeg and was backed by Crown corporations and other public bodies.

Manitoba Public Insurance chipped in $96,000. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries put up $80,000. Red River College paid $50,000. The Canadian Museum For Human Rights added a more modest $2,500.

In exchange, the sponsors were inserted into the scripts. A main character is a Red River graduate. The museum, which is to open later this year, is featured prominently in the background and is mentioned on at least one occasion. The Royal Bank, one of the few major private-sector sponsors, is featured heavily.

The first episode has garnered more than 12,000 views on YouTube. The sixth and final episode has been viewed a little more than 3,000 times.

Other Manitoba-centric YouTube videos have attracted more attention. A musical ad by the Manitoba Dental Association called "We be Brushin" has been seen 22,000 times. An amateur video of two women fighting in a downtown shopping centre has 16,000 views.

Red River College spokeswoman Christine Payne said in a written statement that the college was pleased with the results of WindCity's first season because the series generated "buzz" about the school.

"This unique marketing-advertising medium allowed us to connect with our student population through social media to build our brand," Payne wrote.

Manitoba Public Insurance had some safe-driving messages in the script and was aiming for younger viewers who might not read newspaper ads.

"Our specific goal was to reach that young demographic and we feel that we did," said MPI spokesman Brian Smiley.

Plans are being made for a second season and Vieira said talks with some sponsors are underway.

He said his goal was to have total views for all six first-season episodes hit the 100,000 mark. The count is at 45,000 and rising, he added.

"We get about 700 to 1,000 views a week still. There's a consistent number."

The amount of money spent by the Crown corporations would buy many ads in traditional media, said an official with a Winnipeg advertising company.

"Eighty-thousand dollars would get you a fairly decent campaign over a few weeks," said Brent Neill, media strategist at Blacksheep Strategy.

"For a decent visibility campaign, locally, on (TV) during the Olympics, you're looking at about $20,000."