First there were three: CBS, NBC, ABC. And three became four with the addition of Fox. Now it’s time to officially recognize a fifth major television network in the U.S.: the Internet.
The Internet is nothing new to television, or television to the Internet. A lot is happening here, and lately the Internet just feels like a fifth network. I’m excited to “tune in” to an Internet “channel” like MySpace or YouTube to catch the season finales of shows like “LonelyGirl15” and “Prom Queen”, just like I was anxious to see what happened in the network finales of “Lost” and “Heroes.” I’ve even caught myself during the day wondering, “What’s on the Internet tonight?”
Tomorrow it will be “LonelyGirl15.”
The “LonelyGirl15” season finale will be shown exclusively on MySpace, and it will be a unique culmination of the series to date. Twelve episodes will be released, one an hour, beginning at 8 a.m. Pacific, a sure way to generate buzz and drive traffic to MySpaceTV.
Let’s see the networks do that.
In this form, “LonelyGirl15’s” creators — Greg Goodfried, Miles Beckett, and Mesh Flinders — will experiment with the pacing of the program in real time and wrap up some loose storylines.
This is exciting stuff, no matter whether a show is professionally produced or user-generated. Independent video producers like the “LonelyGirl15” brain trust are continuing their ascent online and one day — who knows? — they may even cross over to one of the other networks.
“Prom Queen”, another popular and ground-breaking web video program, wrapped up its first season in June and has been successful enough that Vuguru, the company managing the series, is picking it up for another season.
Like the season finale of “LonelyGirl15,” “Prom Queen” was exclusively shown on MySpace before being available, 12 hours later, at other Internet outlets. Its story, a high school drama of a dozen or so characters, was told in 80 episodes, 90 seconds each, released daily. The whole “season” added up to just two hours.
“Prom Queen” garnered nearly 15 million total views and generated substantial interactive response, generating 14,000 comments and over 21,000 forum postings — activity important to social networking sites such as MySpace and Bebo. Bebo is the popular social networking site in the U.K; it’s the exclusive distributor for Gottfried’s and Beckett’s newest show, KateModern.
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the ones behind the Daytime Emmys, acknowledged web shows like “LonelyGirl15” and “Prom Queen” by creating a collection of Broadband Emmy awards. “Prom Queen” was nominated for this year’s award for outstanding broadband drama.
Michael Eisner, the former head of Disney and the one behind “Prom Queen”, said four or five new shows are in various stages of production and that he’s confident that Internet entertainment is not going away. “It’s not going to displace movie theaters and broadcast and cable, but it’s going to be one of the dominant platforms.”
Maybe even a dominant “televison” network.
In fact, it was Rupert Murdoch’s company, News Corp., that originally started the Fox TV Network and he now owns MySpace. Interesting.