The recent jockeying for position and struggle to find an identity within the crowded and competitive world of network, cable, streaming video, and online television reminds me of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories, The Sneetches. The Sneetches were a group of yellow creatures, some with green stars on their bellies (a sign of distinction) and some without, until a character named Sylvester McMonkey McBean offers those without stars a chance to add them by going through his Star-On machine. In order to stay special the Sneetches formerly with stars happily pay the money to have them removed in his Star-Off machine. Ultimately this escalates, with the Sneetches running from one machine to the next, and to quote the good Doctor,
“until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one… or that one was this one or which one was what one… or what one was who.”
The last few month, the news out of the “television” world has been very Seuss-like to say the least:
At this year’s winter TV press tour Kevin Reilly, entertainment president, Fox Broadcasting Company, revealed that his network plans to use web content as a development tool for the airwaves. “Something that starts in digital could be the next big primetime hit… We have an expertise, and a history, and proficiency, and a primetime audience base,” he confirms in this Atlantic.com article about 5 Ways the Networks Want to Change How You Watch TV. Reilly goes on to use Web Therapy starring Lisa Kudrow (of Friends fame) as one example of a web-only series that has successfully made the switch and is now aired on Showtime.
In an effort to kick start their declining subscription base, Netflix is beginning to act more like a network rather than your average streaming video provider. By jumping into the original programming waters, Netflix plans to release three new series in 2012 – starting with Lilyhammer, a crime comedy set in Norway’s former Winter Olympics headquarters, starring The Soprano’s Steven Van Zandt. Not to be outdone and fresh off a year where they realized 60 percent revenue growth in 2011, the web streaming service Hulu is launching its first ever original scripted series. Battleground, a mockumentary series described as “The Office meets The West Wing, premieres February 14, explains, this opinion brief on TheWeek.com.
And remember when YouTube was just a site where you could watch short clips of people doing funny and unusual things? Well, last week Reuters joined CNN and the BBC by unveiling its own channel to be shown on the popular video sharing site. The channels will show original content from Reuters on YouTube, which will allow them to leverage an army of over 3,000 reporters worldwide.
I doubt all the players involved with getting content to the masses will end up in blissful harmony like our friends the Sneetches, but it should be fun watching them run from one machine to the next having their green stars removed and re-added over again.
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