Is the Internet the fifth major TV network?

lonelygirl15First 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.

prom queenLike 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.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

15 Responses to “Is the Internet the fifth major TV network?”

  1. David Mackey says:

    While I think internet entertainment is sticking around and will become a fifth network – its also still far from becoming all it can be. It takes much too much time surfing around to find interesting content and it is too short for the time invested in finding it.

  2. Mike says:

    There are several hundreds of TV channels broadcasting on the internet. Some can be found here: http://www.chooseandwatch.com/

  3. Chris Tew says:

    (I see Choose and Watch is still spamming everyone)

    That aside – the problem with the internet being a TV network is aggregation and lack of passive watching. When you watch TV it’s passive – you sit back and watch using a remote – everything comes to you without much effort – there is a lot of effort involved in finding stuff to watch online.

  4. European says:

    Number #5 ??
    It is the number 1 already, you are only counting US network here.
    Internet is intern…ational!!!

    Regarding the “passive” comment:
    u just need to learn how to use Favorite/Bookmarks, etc… u don’t always have to search.

    It is also true that you have a guide on your screen, and your effort to search what you are looking for is right there.

  5. Mepf says:

    Well, it could be, if only the Internet wasn’t people who have nothing to do watching people who can’t do anything.

    The rest of the country is older, grayer, and considerably uninterested in watching TV on the Internet. Advertisers know this, and spend money accordingly (at the networks). Watch the ad dollars. If they shift online in a huge way (once the Baby Boomers go blind in 20-30 years), the writing is on the wall for the networks.

    “Television is a triumph of equipment over people, and the minds that control it are so small that you could put them in the navel of a flea and still have enough room for a network president’s heart.” – Fred Allen

  6. Overeducated says:

    To classify the internet with the major networks is a stretch. Online everyone gets a voice and it is generally easy to discern their bias. Whereas the major networks are concerned, few get a voice and a lot of effort is spent to hide their bias. A truly important story will hit the web and take 3 days to clear the media’s system of checks. These checks are not about truth, but rather the impact on advertisers. Then they will squeeze the story between the latest terror alert and Paris Hilton coverage. I for one welcome the demise of our info overlords.

  7. Nate says:

    Very true article, I can even watch live tv broadcast at http://www.channelking.com

  8. crypto says:

    How can you possibly talk about the internet being the 5th network without mentioning Revision3 who happens to produce the most popular podcast (diggnation) and offers some of the finest content (iFanboy, TRS, The GigaOM Show, iFanboy) in cyberspace?

  9. Scott says:

    The premise of your article makes no sense. The Internet is not a “5th TV network” is a distinct technology for distributing content. The world doesn’t revolve around television.

  10. fn says:

    the growing net of computers all connected to each other is simply next step of evolution in media, strange that some of you haven´t realized yet.
    Unicast vs Multicast. everybody can speak up and if it´s interessting or right, everybody gets heard (thats what digg is also about ). I don´t watch tv anymore (except Sonntag: Tatort 😉 but I have BT and black content streaming-sites and friends with hard drives full of content – I can select what I want, I am in control of my own input and I know where to get content and to get infos besides mainstream and often I am able to evaluate it, doing some quick recherche and maybe reading other perspectives – therefore I am my own Gatekeeper. (risk could be “kognitive dissonanz”, that ppl don´t want to receive content contrarian oppinions, and just jumping over it. cause internet is activ and tv is passive)
    the old media will have a hard time, believe me..
    entropy ain´t stoping for anything – everything has it´s time – TV is mouldering since years: special interest TV-stations growing in numbers, high value productions in bigger stations declining. fortunatly theres no FOX in germany (but a paper like it: Bild) .. the ultimate potential of TV in manipulating nationwide opinions as it had in the 80ies is gone.
    we are all individuals who have chosen to read some articles collective by others from us, being connected, listening and getting heard – skipping the institutions of intermediation, these interfaces for the powerfull behind curtains sometimes controlling oppions – those who selecting what to see, what gets to the news (see rupert murdoch press in UK) the crosslinking of our comuters which absorbed the most of the technical media (script, letters, tune in(? Radio), telephone, tv, cinema, newspapers, boards etc.) and the very combination of both will absorb more, will be taken up with

  11. Glenn Abel says:

    I figure we’ve had a powerful fifth network for years: HBO, home of “The Sopranos” and a mob of other fine programming. HBO is the most respected brand in television. But if we’re ruling out pay cable and The CW (yes, let’s), this is a perfectly legitimate academic just-for-grins rhetorical question.

    All things TV eventually will be distributed via the Internet or its successor anyway, but there you have a fun concept to debate over a couple of Red Bulls. What did we talk about before the Internet, anyway?

  12. Yesadoodledo says:

    http://www.freetube.us.tc – free tv
    http://www.joost.com – free videos
    http://www.lonelygirl15.com – the seasons/saga/controversy of youtube
    http://www.thelonelyisland.com – hilarious videos
    http://www.myspace.com/videos/ – anything else

  13. 9ulk says:

    “Is the Internet the fifth major TV network?”

    No, that would be Univisión.

  14. Maria Marinaccio says:

    In my opinion, HBO is not the most respected brand in TV since they cancelled John from Cincinnati and left it’s fans hanging.

  15. morteza says:

    hi — my name is morteza!
    last100 is very good!
    http://www.roseboysmiahnblog.com ?
    bye bye

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