Marta Kauffman joins the web TV fray.
Earlier this week, Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman announced that she was moving her work from the television screen to the web via a new series called Georgia.
By doing so, Kauffman has joined many creative teams already producing original programming specifically for the Internet.
Web TV is a trend that is already popular with college students. Due to a minimal amount of free time and the increasing cost of cable, many college students take advantage of their free campus wi-fi and watch most of their favorite shows online.
Alyssa Furukawa, a student at Temple University, says that students prefer watching online because it is more convenient.
“I have things to do and don’t want to schedule my life around watching TV shows,” Furukawa said. “Plus sitting through commercials is the worst.”
Furukawa’s logic is reflected in a study focused on the power of web TV. According to Forrester Research, web TV viewing is the fourth most popular online activity. Three quarters of young adult Internet users (aged 18 to 29) watch online video, and nearly 33% percent said that they did so every day.
With options like Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix — not to mention the endless amount of un-authorized outlets — answers to the question “what should I watch?” are endless.
Television-radio major Ben Ratner thinks that this only benefits viewers.
“[The rise of web TV] means that all shows are going to have to put a strong focus on content,” Ratner said. “Content is king. The platform doesn’t matter as much, but the stories, production value, and distribution are still the key factors… unique ideas will penetrate through the rest of the fluff.”
David Allen, host of the popular college television podcast Dual Redundancy, agrees.
“More options are better,” Allen said. “I think more otions from networks for online content should be explored.”
Major online companies generally stream productions from television networks and movie studios. For example, seasons 1-7 of cult favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer are available for instant streaming on Hulu Plus.
But developing web-only original programming is new territory for many companies. The most notable of these is Netflix, whose star-studded original programming is set to premiere in 2013.
Netflix will first release House of Cards, a project based on a British novel and miniseries that stars Kevin Spacey and is directed by David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Hemlock Grove, a murder mystery featuring Eli Roth, will premiere after, and then — perhaps Netflix’s most buzzed-about project — will come a fourth season of the cult-hit Arrested Development.
The resurgence of Arrested Development, which Furukawa refers to as “one of the greatest shows in all of TV history,” highlights how web TV can directly cater to specific audiences — and open new creative avenues.
“When AMC decided to come up with original programming along with the main networks, we received Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead,” Allen notes. “The more ways creative people can create and distribute their vision the better.”
Despite all the positives, web TV is not perfect. According to Allen, there is still industry confusion as to how to appropriately measure online ratings for shows — and the delay in posting new episodes discourages some viewers.
“Hopefully, this means that network television has to find better ways to track what’s popular other than Nielsen ratings,” Furukawa said. “Web TV hopefully means more content for smaller audiences.”
More content is the primary goal of web TV, and companies outside of Hulu and Netflix have been jumping on the bandwagon.
Yahoo has recruited Tom Hanks to develop an original cartoon series, ABC News and Yahoo have a partnership to develop original web comedies, and YouTube has spent roughly $100 million on original programming.
This technologically savvy generation of college students, who also fall in the coveted 18 – 49 demographic, is no doubt to thank.
As the future industry leaders, college students are the ones who drive television forward, though for now, that direction seems to lead towards the world wide web.
“Ultimately, I do prefer watching online TV,” Ratner said “But only when I have no other option.”
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