Whether relating to movies, specials, or real-life dramas, the phrase “made for TV” may soon go the way of the Dodo. Online publishers and offline producers are increasingly turning their sites to the Web, and creating original content expressly for Internet users.
It was “announced”:http://media.aoltimewarner.com/media/newmedia/cb_press_view.cfm?release_num=55254527 this week that Katalyst Films — the production company headed by actor Ashton Kutcher that’s responsible for such shows as Punk’d and Beauty and the Geek — will be developing and producing at least five original comedy shows (comprised of about 20 “mini-episodes”) for AOL sometime this year. The Web-only programming will be available on AOL and AIM.
This isn’t the first incidence of programming being developed exclusively for the Internet. In November, for example, Food Network launched “Eat This with Dave Lieberman”:http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_et, a Web-only series hosted by the Food Network chef by the same name. In it, Lieberman visits various US cities to uncover and share food trends.
To me, what’s most interesting about this approach to programming is that it’s blurring the television borders in a way that was previously reserved for satellite TV. “FoodNetwork.ca”:http://www.foodnetwork.ca doesn’t offer Eat This, but you can get it on the US site.. even if you can’t see Lieberman on his full-length Food Network show offline. And you’ll soon be able to watch Kutcher’s new shows in the London, Ontario airport… using your laptop and free Wi-Fi access, of course.
This new twist on an “old” medium has implications for marketers as well. Those willing to make the investment could use Web-only programming as an extension of their viral marketing campaigns and blogs, or as a replacement for TV product placements (for the investment, you might be better off producing your own series for the Web). But if you’re going to consider Web-only programming, be sure to keep your shows short and relevant to your audience. This may be a novel and exciting trend, but the same principles of online media still apply (this isn’t TV, after all…).