TV Programming: Online Vs. Broadcast Models

With the increase of broadband capabilities, the digital explosion of entertainment programming making its way to the web was inevitable.  Currently, we are seeing a shift from original programming development making its first appearance on traditional broadcast and cable networks to certain popular web outlets. Here are a few highlights on the current trends, and how they are working.

Broadcast-First Model

This has been one of the most popular models, as it takes the traditional model of programming being first aired on broadcast or cable networks, then makes the content available for online streaming the day following its original airdate. Most larger networks are taking advantage of this opportunity to reach their audience in a new way that is proving to be a desirable communication channel for some.

Hulu, a joint venture by some of the larger media companies, is currently the most popular website that exemplifies this model.  While most networks will stream their own content on their separate websites for viewing, Hulu aggregates content from several different providers, creating an easy place for individuals to follow their favorite shows in one place.

Online-First Model

Although still less popular than the aforementioned Broadcast-First Model, there is some content out there being created for the web, and then later finding extended life in broadcast syndication and DVD distribution.

Dr.Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

During the 2008 writer’s strike, Joss Whedon had an idea to experiment with his net-savvy fan base. Spending $200,000 of his own cash on a 45 minute musical about a super villain blogger, Whedon took full advantage of his web audience. Releasing the program in three installments, Dr.Horrible swept across the web like wildfire.  With headlining cast including Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, Doogie Howsier) and Nathon Fillon (FireFly), the video was able to easily cover its expenses through iTunes downloads and DVD distribution.

If I Can Dream

This online experiment ,conceptualized by producer Simon Fuller (American Idol), follows the lives of six talented individuals attempting to “make it” in Hollywood. Living together in a house with over 60 cameras that are live-streamed 24hours a day, a weekly recap show is aired on Hulu every Tuesday. As the website’s very first attempt at original content, If I Can Dream is new approach to pushing programming content to the masses.

Bringing Online to the Living Room

There are a number of hybrid solutions emerging to help combine the online programming model with the long-standing tradition of watching TV from the comfort of one’s living room. Instead of the active “lean-forward” model of current online viewing, these online solutions allow viewers to access their favorite online content and stream it to a television of their choice.

Hulu Desktop

Although not completely a “lean-back” model, as the content is still accessed through the viewer’s computer monitor, this solution adds a remote control function to the popular TV viewing website Hulu.  Users can either purchase the custom remote from Hulu, or use their keyboard to navigate a user interface similar to that you would find for digital cable.


This PC based software allows content to be streamed to a television from certain content providers, including Hulu, CBS, ESPN, Netflix, CNN and YouTube.


Another set-top solution, Roku can access Netflix’s streaming catalog, Amazon Video on Demand, and MLB.TV.

The Elephant in the Room

Obviously, the examples provided are in response to this growing phenomenon of online video and companies that have been in the content production business for years, trying to get a handle on just how to monetize this new-age web audience. Although these attempts are creative and worth mentioning, it is unclear as to just how the revenue created can compete with the current model advertising sales funding most major programming projects. It will be interesting to see how developments in the cable and mobile industries might compete with these growing trends.


~ by dparsonsmedia on May 10, 2010.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: