Monday, September 1, 2008

For Web TV, a Handful of Hits but No Formula for Success

So which TV shows are you watching on the web? These "webisodes", from both amateur and professionals have filled the distribution pipe with more and more choice. And with all this glut, it becomes increasingly harder to know what to watch. Certainly the writers strike limited the choices from the established TV networks, allowing viewers to seek more alternatives. The problem is that the average viewer relies on the expertise of the TV network and their promotional skills to educate and inform us of new programs. In a web world, that promotion seems to be more viral.

Most seek out known web channels - You Tube, Hulu, Nextnewnetworks, My Damn Channel, Funny or Die, and others. But as these choices continue to multiply, the possible audience continues to fragment. And that fragmentation makes it hard to aggregate viewers into a meaningful number to advertise against. In the short run, they can get meaningful hits; but in the long run, it is hard to maintain those numbers on a consistent basis. The big networks have felt that firsthand.

So what is the viewer to do. I believe it spells opportunity for the big networks to once again use the power of the TV medium to distribute on its main channels and promote its associated web channels as the place to watch more. Tying these web channels back to a bigger network can create a more segmented approach. Those we channels without a meaningful partner must either get larger to compete or will soon fade away. It may be challenging and fun to create shows without big budgets or unions to control labor costs, but once the business model is determined, this gratis programming cannot continue to function. Goodwill will work for only so long.