The creation of a viable business model based on video that originates online rather than on TV or from the Hollywood studios has been a long time coming. Our earliest NewTeeVee posts appeared five years ago, back in 2006, and in that time, we’ve seen a boom-and-bust cycle in the investment that goes into production of new web original series. It may have taken a while, but for the first time in a long time, it seems that non-traditional programming may finally begin to make a dent in the content people watch and the ad dollars that come with it.
A swing of the pendulum
A number of companies emerged in the latter half of the last decade to finance, produce and distribute online video, but few remain. Even those still around don’t hold quite the same promise they once had, as much of the discussion has shifted from the potential of web video disrupting the TV market to content from incumbents appearing on the web.
Driven by the launch and adoption of services like Netflix streaming and Hulu, viewers are now able to access an ever-growing amount of traditionally produced content on the web. The same type of content viewers are used to watching on TV is becoming even more available due to TV Everywhere services from operators and networks, all of which has taken the wind out of the sails from creators that operate on the web.
New bets on web-first content
But a shift is occurring: Now that Netflix and others have proven they have viewers’ attention, the traditional media companies are starting to pull back and demand more for the licensing of their content. But while traditional media companies are becoming more stingy, there’s a renewed interest in content that originates on the web. More than ever, online media companies are betting on web original video to boost revenues and capture ad dollars from traditional TV marketers. Consider the following news from just the past few days:
- On Monday, AOL announced a slate of 15 web original series, including some made in-house and content from Vuguru, Warner Bros. and Flavor Unit Productions.
- Tuesday morning, Yahoo launched a new online video portal, including the introduction of eight new original web series.
- YouTube is reportedly spending upwards of $100 million to finance the creation of new channels of professionally produced content to appear on its site first.
These moves are being driven by an ad market that has finally arrived for online video content. Brands and agencies are starting to recognize that web destinations can finally deliver the scale of audience that is necessary for their campaigns. Importantly, they are also becoming comfortable with the content being put forward by web original producers.
Not TV on the web, but the web on your TV
At the same time that TV shows and movies are making their way online, web originals are finding their way onto viewer televisions. Today’s web series are no longer limited to distribution within a user’s web browser, but are becoming available through connected TVs, Blu-ray players and other devices — even, in some cases, being distributed to traditional cable VOD systems.
As AOL, Yahoo, YouTube and others invest more heavily in building connected TV and mobile apps for delivery of their content on more screens, the distinction between the type of content that originates and is viewed on TV and that which is shown first on the web will begin to melt away. Yahoo, for instance, is interested in syndicating its content to more traditional outlets, and web video producer Funny Or Die has seen success with an HBO deal.
Big names replacing no names online
One other trend creating more interest is the movement of name talent into the web originals space. Yahoo is leveraging the talents of actors Judy Greer, Cameron Mathison and Niecy Nash in its push for new online programming, and AOL will collaborate with Jennifer Lopez and have content featuring Heidi Klum and Twilight‘s Jackson Rathbone. YouTube is also getting into the mix, reportedly signing up celebs like Tony Hawk.
The blurring of the lines between shows produced for TV and those that are online first is increasing the value of advertising that is running along that content. With more big names becoming part of web original content, as well as wider distribution, viewers are increasingly tuning in to web originals and the brand dollars have finally begun to follow.