February 22, 2006 12:36 PM PST

TV catches the Net video bug

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Dirty secret or not, the Web has long been a platform for downloading and watching pirated clips of television shows like "Lost" and "The Simpsons," much to the chagrin of the television networks.

But now TV producers are turning the tables, creating new shows around video clips culled from the Web.

Bravo TV is among the pioneers of the genre. This week, it began airing a new half-hour series called "Outrageous and Contagious: Viral Video," a show featuring the most popular video shorts circulating the Net, including parodies of the gay-cowboy movie "Brokeback Mountain" and clips of President George Bush's many verbal faux pas. It could be likened to a digital-age version of the old bloopers TV shows.


What's new:
TV producers have begun searching for videos produced and distributed by Internet users.

Bottom line:
The producers' search on the Web for marketable videos--and the ubiquity of broadband connections and video hardware and software--underscores the convergence of the Internet and traditional media. Compared with financing a regular television series, culling material from the Web is a relatively inexpensive way to develop programming.

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USA Networks, Fox and NBC are producing similar programming in the coming months. And ABC News Digital plans to enhance its television news program by drawing on video captured by viewers using cellular phones.

"No one can say this is a niche genre, because my mom is e-mailing me (Internet) videos, as is my nephew," said Andy Cohen, vice president of programming and production for Bravo TV, a unit of NBC Universal.

The Internet-inspired programming is yet another sign of the long-anticipated convergence between the Web and traditional media. Now that viewers, particularly young audiences, spend more time online on average than with any other media, TV producers are hunting for new programming that will play on the Web's popularity while redirecting interest back to the tube.

It's happening now for a combination of reasons. Broadband in American homes is stoking demand for media-rich entertainment online. Low-cost video equipment and editing software are making it easy for people to create their own short films or mini-features. Emerging services from Google, Brightcove and others are delivering the tools to upload, circulate or even sell video online. And TV networks now want to help deliver a mass audience for that video during prime time.

For TV producers, it's simply a cheap way to develop a show. In the classic model of programming production, content producers would invest a lot of money upfront to create a pilot show and test it with audiences. By patrolling the Internet, TV producers can draw on material that's already proved popular with online audiences and put it on TV with comparatively little investment.

"It's almost as if networks have cheap labor now for creating

CONTINUED: A "major hunting expedition"…
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Similar to VH1's 'Web Junk 20'?
VH1 has a new show called 'Web Junk 20' where they show the top 20 video clips found on the web that week, in conjuction with IFILM. It wasn't mentioned in the article so I was wondering if that's the kind of show you were alluding to?
Posted by minibritz (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Who owns the copyright?
The same companies wanting to exploit free content from the web are the ones who actively pursue people for violating copyright law.
Does a free clip they use now become copyrighted once they show it? This format will get very messy, very quickly, with the big corporations ultimately winning yet again.
Posted by Pete Saman (99 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Does a free clip they use now become copyrighted once they show it?" -- Of course not. The copyright always lies with the creator.
Posted by Anonymous1234567890 (53 comments )
Link Flag
TV catches the Net video bug
Just one quote by Stefanie Olsen "Emerging services from Google,
Brightcove and others are delivering the tools to upload, circulate
or even sell video online"

How does she write this whole article and not mention Apple one

Posted by mozart11 (30 comments )
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The End of Big Media
It's amazing to see how TV and the Web are starting to dance together. It won't be long before these independent production companies start producing content just for web delivery, and sign up advertisers on their own. Skip the broadcast networks, reach your audience directly - and get paid what you deserve! Sounds like a plan to me.
Posted by Joshcava (2 comments )
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