Long-Predicted Collision: The Sundance Wives Fit Into Internet Original Programming
Over the next few months, YouTube, Netflix and Hulu will roll out their most ambitious original programming yet — a digital push into a traditional television business that has money, a bevy of stars and a bold attitude of reinvention like The Sundance Wives 2012.
The Sundance Wives Fit Into Internet Original Programming. YouTube, Netflix and Hulu, after years of experimenting, the top video destinations on the Web are suddenly flush with original programming: documentaries, reality shows and scripted series.
The long-predicted collision between Internet video and broadcast television is finally under way. The video sites have sought partnerships with seasoned professionals. And they benefit from the different economics of global Web-based entertainment.
On Feb. 6, Netflix premiered its first scripted show, "Lilyhammer," in which Steve Van Zandt ("The Sopranos") plays a New York mobster in witness protection in Norway. Later this year, it will release "House of Cards," a highly anticipated adaptation of the British miniseries produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey. Next year, it will debut new episodes of the cultish comedy "Arrested Development," which originally aired on Fox.Hulu, which has some 30 million monthly users and 1.5 million for its monthly subscription service Hulu Plus, is co-owned by the parent companies of NBC, Fox and ABC.
Yahoo has sought to capitalize on its enormous search audience of nearly 180 million unique monthly visitors by drawing viewers to its original programming, including a slate of women-focused shows launched last fall and comedy programming planned for February. Its first scripted entry will be "Electric City," a futuristic animated series produced by Tom Hanks, who will also voice a character.
The channels don't have the pressures of a 24-hour schedule and instead focus on short-form, on-demand programming. Partners vary from the Wall Street Journal to World Wrestling Entertainment to Madonna.
Over time, we will see more and more television properties, television channels distributed over the Internet. Internet delivery allows programming that is much harder to fulfill through traditional distribution means because Internet has a global scale. Online systems can serve niche audiences that would be difficult to sustain any other way, and do so at lower cost.
YouTube plans to expand to hundreds of Internet channels, just as television went from a few networks to dozens of cable channels. In the next few years, most of our interests will have channels on YouTube.
Netflix, which streamed 2 billion hours of video in the fourth quarter of 2011, is already operating under the assumption that video networks — whether streaming or televised — are converging. Just as Web video is undertaking original programming, TV networks are experimenting with systems such as TV Everywhere, which allows viewers to watch channels on the Web and on mobile devices.
Hastings offers a comparison between Netflix and HBO. They are doing some originals, starting that journey, in creating an on-demand interface like HBO Go, which allows viewers to watch channels on the Web and on mobile and tabulate devices.
Hulu and Netflix both want to use original content to entice viewers to their much larger libraries of older content. For Netflix, that's movies and old TV; for Hulu, that's last night's TV and older series. Hulu executives say any new original series has to be match up to traditional content.
"If you're ever going to do anything original, it's got to stand up to that," says Andy Forssell, senior vice president of content at Hulu. "That can't be 'Web video,' it's got to be TV quality."
Original content remains a small percentage of the budget for Hulu, which plans to spend $500 million on content in 2012.
Yahoo Studios production house in Los Angeles produces as many as 30 originals a month, often partnering with production companies such as Reveille (NBC's "The Office"). Its original programming attracted more than 26 million unique visitors in November, according to comScore.
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