Oh, the irony of the name. Except that it isn’t web-based television content but the old-fashioned boob tube television that has all but fallen under the weight of its own house of cards. If you’ve caught Hulu’s Battlegound, then you know major web-media providers have already produced a show of serious artistic quality and series pay-off. At the time House of Cards was announced, with all it’s heavy hitter talent backing (starring Kevin Spacey, directed by David Fincher), it looked like a watershed moment in new American viewing habits. Flash forward only a small while and the question has become “When?” not “If?” all of our watching will come through web-based means. With highly profitable YouTube channels growing at alarming rates and web-content companies employing more creative people than most small studios, the transition is already in its infancy.
What does the shift mean? My opinion is that small movements, pockets, cultish followings will emerge to support smaller films and television projects. More people will create content and compete to survive in an increasingly competitive web-sphere. The profits will be far lower for most distributors, but the opportunity to breakthrough the iron curtain bureaucracy of Hollywood will be much greater as well. I envision that in 50 years TV as we know it, with time slots and “networks” will be transformed into something resembling YouTube channels completely. Meaning, our remotes will look very different. I suppose the umbrella networks will still exist (although perhaps not) on their own channels. They will likely have far more major competition, a la the emergence of cable networks over the past two decades.
Websites such as VODO have already successfully engaged millions of downloaders by allowing content to be obtained free via Bittorrent. The catch is that if you like what you see then you can put up a small amount of money (even just $1) to see more of the show (or film) made. What an incredibly democratic means to seeing what you want to watch get done. No advertiser driven release dates. No actor/producer contractual holdouts. Just good, solid creativity. Not only are we viewers in this system but we are content providers commissioning our favorite artists to complete work that we want to consume. Could this “For Us, By Us” method of funding take shape? I doubt it will become the norm, but with the vastness of the Internet the possibility for this kind of creation is quite strong.
The shift takes a major step forward on February 1st, 2013 with the unveiling of House of Cards. This won’t be the groundbreaking moment it was expected to be, but bringing in the mainstream presence of Netflix should enlighten millions of people still watching TV the old way. The next few decades bring an exciting hope for diverse creative content delivered without the barrier of the corporate censorship that has had such a profitable ride.
Here’s the trailer for Battleground. If you haven’t seen it, change that… NOW: