NPR Morning Edition posted a story December 26, 2012 on a growing trend of online video services like Hulu, Netflix, and even YouTube, to present original programming. Hulu and Netflix both released original series in 2012, with the shows Battlefield and Lilyhammer. A new production studio, Maker Studios, is oriented toward creating online-only content. Started in 2011 with $1.5 million in venture capital, with an undisclosed amount paid by YouTube, Maker is only one of a number of start-ups that are being funded to fill in the content desired by online video services seeking to grab a share of the broadcasting universe.
The Speculation Is Over
This is the culmination of several years of speculation about the direction on online streaming services, as television networks and movie studios tighten their licensing agreements and shorten video windows in order to prop up the value of their content. The latest crop of prime-time television shows, like NBC’s Revolution, tend to be available on web streaming services for only several weeks, restricting viewers who come into the season in the middle from watching from the beginning.
One item of speculation for a number of years is that online video services would take on the role of basic cable networks, like TBS, in continuing series dropped from the main on-air networks. For example, following the cancellation of the highly-acclaimed 2011 FOX series TerraNova, Netflix was identified as a possible destination. While talks ended without a deal in April of this year, these negotiations indicated that video streaming sites were interested in testing the waters for evolving from aggregators of existing content into primary destinations for their own programming. Media industry observers have even begun labeling these services “Multichannel Networks (MCN)”, a term once reserved for cable and satellite broadcasters as they severed their ties to multisystem operators, who provided the infrastructure and funding, and began to build stronger relationships with studios and production companies.
Web Streaming Comes Into Its Own
Among the newly-christened MCNs, Hulu has been particularly aggressive in presenting not only older TV series from US broadcasters, but in marketing currently-running series, especially international shows, as a primary distributor in the US market. Many of these series, like the British series Rev and Korean series The Great Seer and Coffee Prince, are only available to US audiences through their streaming service. The addition of original series further strengthens Hulu not only against its rivals in the video streaming industry, but against Basic Cable as well.
Will this present a threat to either Basic Cable or the major networks? There appears to be a lot of money on the viability of web streaming as a destination channel, though it may be too soon to tell whether web streaming channels will eclipse either, or settle into a unique niche that cannot replace or be replaced by the others.
Upcoming topics will look at web video streaming services and the movie studios, as well as the rise of internet TV.