Are TV Networks Screwing Themselves By Putting Their Shows Online?S

The Times' Brian Stelter notes today that thanks to television networks placing shows on the internet, more people are watching video on the web for longer periods of time, leading to an explosion of original content created outside of Hollywood.

In a piece on how web users are spending increasing amounts of time watching video on the web, Stelter credits Hollywood for the change in our viewing habits:

TV networks get much of the credit for the longer-length viewing behavior. In the past two TV seasons, nearly every broadcast show has been streamed free on the Internet, making users accustomed to watching TV online for 20-plus minutes at a time. By some estimates, one in four Internet customers now uses Hulu, an online home for NBC and Fox shows, every month. "Dancing With the Stars," the popular ABC reality show, draws almost two million viewers on ABC.com, according to Nielsen.

Stelter goes on to theorize that this Hollywood-inspired increase in time spent watching video on the web has led to much of the new scripted content on the web is being created independently, outside of the traditional, soul-sucking Hollywood development system.

The viral videos of YouTube 1.0 - dog-on-skateboard and cat-on-keyboard - are being supplemented by a new, more vibrant generation of online video. Production companies are now creating 10- and 20-minute shows for the Internet and writing story arcs for their characters - essentially acting more like television producers, while operating far outside the boundaries of a network schedule.

Much of the video innovation is coming from people who - empowered by inexpensive editing equipment and virtually no distribution costs - are creating content specifically for an online audience.

"On the Web, producers have this delicious freedom to produce content as long as it should be. They're starting to take advantage of that," (Blip.tv co-founder Dina) Kaplan said.

Though we agree with much of what Stelter says, one point we'd like to expand on that isn't addressed in Stelter's piece, something we addressed previously in a post titled "The End of Television as We Know It" back in May, is that we believe eventually someone will independently shoot and distribute an episodic series online that will become a cultural phenomenon, something people discuss around the proverbial water-cooler on a regular basis, and that will be the moment when the scale is officially tipped and the television networks run the risk of becoming little more than relics of a bygone era. How far off into the future is something like that happening is anyone's guess, but it certainly seems as though we're getting closer and closer with each passing day.

Rise of Web Video, Beyond Two-Minute Clips [New York Times]