Ah. The New Year. A time for a fresh start for all, including those of us who live in the ever changing (read fluid) world at the intersection of online video and advertising. So first: Happy New Year to one and all. Secondly, whew, last year was a rough one, so let’s breath a sigh of relief that we survived it, in one form or another, and look forward to this coming year being a better one.
Each year for at least the last three has been proclaimed, “the year of online video.” Much like wishes that are fulfilled but not in the way that one desires them to be, perhaps the year of online video has not occurred due to a certain lack of specificity. So while I won’t say “this is the year of online video,” I’ll highlight a few ways that I think online video will break through and what we have to look forward to as the year unfurls. Drum roll, please.
YouTube and Viacom Will Settle Their Lawsuit
There’s a couple of reasons to believe this will be the case because the online video marketplace is exerting itself and forcing this to be so. First, a number of premium video experiences will continue to grow, and in so doing, will prevent YouTube from monetizing its audience in a meaningful way. By the end of 2008, ywe saw news of Hulu possibly becoming bigger than YouTube. Add to that Sling.com’s launch and TV.com’s announcement that it will be revamping — and you begin to see a competitive marketplace with significant eyeballs that will force YouTube to possibly come to the table to compete. Already by going HD and widescreen as well as partnering with studios such as Lion’s Gate, YouTube has tipped its premium hand. And look for 2009 to be a time when it truly seeks to partner with big media companies to leverage and monetize its audience. One step on that journey will be the settling of the lawsuit.
An Online Video Show Will Migrate Successfully to TV
While we’ve seen what an unsuccessful migration looks like with “Quarterlife,” 2009 will see a show born on the Internet successfully capture TV dollars as a TV program. A prime candidate for breakout success is “In the Motherhood,” which first appeared on MSN in partnership with Suave and Sprint. It will be launching on ABC. (Though why the TV producers swapped out the successful online stars Jenny McCarthy and Leah Rimini for Cheryl Hines and Megan Mullally is something of an open question.)
And while no one knows what qualifies as a TV sitcom success in 2009, this may well be one.
The other TV show that may just break out is “The College Humor Show” featuring Jake and Amir. Jake and Amir are a best-of-breed example of what works in online video with the calculated (yet playful) faux-spontaneity of their Web show, “Hardly Working.” And with “The Hills” on MTV reaching the end of its tortured road — how much Heidi and Spencer can America really take — and “The City” not exactly catching fire — look to MTV to throw promotional firepower behind the College Humor whiz kids. And anybody who would prostrate themselves and their friends by staging a false wedding proposal at Yankee Stadium — as Amir did — certainly has enough of a bent for fame to pull out all the stops to make their TV debut a success. What this means for marketers is pretty simple. There is the promise of “get in on the ground floor” with us while we are an online show — and reap the benefits when we go mainstream.
An Online Video Show Will Become Mainstream
The quality of online video programming, the acceptance by the mainstream of its existence and uniqueness, and the economy’s recessionary forces will lead to a perfect storm to create the first mainstream online series to break out on the Internet — without migrating to TV. With discretionary income all but destroyed by the downturn, people will turn to every available means of “free” and one of those freebies — at least for the consumer — still happens to be online video. Couple that with the fact that there will be that many more creators or creatives with time on their hands and you can begin to see that there will be more compelling content online and more people watching it.
A Web series will not only capture the attention of the digerati and geeks but will break through to appear on the cover of a magazine like “Entertainment Weekly,” (if they are still in print) sometime in 2009.
This online video program will not require TV to become mainstream. Rather, it will be of the medium and for the medium.
A TV Shows’s Digital Offshoot Will Stand Out
In 2009, shows that warrant Webisode content will have it. And in some cases the online content will be an integral part of the show — but at the same time function as a standalone offering. We have seen what happens when a professional turns his attention toward making Web-friendly content with Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible. And other creators are beginning to understand the more free-form creativity that online offers. So as the networks continue to shudder beneath the weight of their own infrastructure, look for a network TV show’s online offshoot to being a top online hit while the TV show languishes near the bottom of the ratings. While this will unlikely change the economics of TV development — it will be one more nail in the coffin of traditional media and force networks to consider their online strategy and think of it less as an adjunct and more as a real business.
So, there you have it, a few thoughts to bring us into the new year. I look forward to revisiting these at the year’s end.
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