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Video: The Re-Rising Star (Part Two)

In Part One of this post, I highlighted a few initiatives launched by newspapers that are incorporating more video content into their offerings. However, consumers’ increasing enthusiasm for watching video online presents a much more immediate and direct challenge to the broadcast industry. Slowly, but surely, the networks are catching on. In the last few months, many of the major networks have made their most popular shows available on iTunes – and now several are taking the next steps. Here I want to draw attention to a few of the more creative projects recently announced by the major television networks, which show their (welcomed) willingness to experiment.

  • NBC: When the Saturday Night Live sketch “Lazy Sunday” was viewed over 5 million times on, NBC took note. First, it told YouTube to remove the video from the site. Then, it announced it would begin offering the clip and others like it on Just like most newspapers give readers the option to e-mail a story link, NBC is also allowing visitors to send their favorite video clips to friends.
  • NBC: NBC’s much-hyped show “Heist” launches next week, and NBC has partnered with MSN Video to offer the first two episodes of the brand-new series in full the week after each episode airs, respectively.
  • ABC: Rafat Ali reported that at the Disney Shareholder’s meeting last week, Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, announced that ABC would start offering its TV shows for free on their website. A small selection of ABC shows are currently available (commercial-free) on iTunes for $1.99 per episode. On, users will be able to download the shows (with commercials) for free.
  • CBS: CBS is seling “condensed” versions of the NCAA “March Madness” basketball games on-demand for $1.99 on iTunes the day after they air live on CBS. The Final Four and Championship games will be available in their entirety, and serious fans can buy a “season-pass” for $19.99, which includes all 63 games of the NCAA Tournament.
  • USA: Using a different approach, USA (now owned by NBC Universal) has announced the launch of, an online social network intended to create and foster virtual “fan communities” by allowing viewers to create profiles and exchange commentary and content relating to their favorite USA Network shows.

While the grassroots networks of citizen-generated and citizen-submitted video content are growing, there’s no question that many people still want to watch prime-time programming. The Survivor-lover in each of us coupled with the increasing number of hours we spend online suggest that the major networks really ought to reconceptualize the meaning of “television.” It’s time to divorce our notion of video from the single-purpose box known as a TV and start to see the Internet as as good a platform as any. The technology is finally there, so it should be utilized.

Of course, the key is figuring out the appropriate business model, but if the wild success of iTunes video store is any indication, it looks hopeful. So are there any draw-backs? Perhaps not. More people will watch more of the networks’ programming and happily do it when it’s most convenient for them. Plus, these may very well be the people the networks were missing from their audiences before. If the broadcast industry can take the lead on this front, it should see the move toward online, on-demand video content as a positive one, not to mention inevitable.

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