Online TV Is Bigger than Just Netflix and Hulu

Contributing Writer
Updated

Michael Cera, June Diane Raphael in \Michael Cera, June Diane Raphael in "Burning Love"

NEW YORK — "Eleven-year-olds don't watch TV, but watch four hours of YouTube and subscribe to 25 YouTube channels," said Nick DeMartino of online video company Theatrics.com (and formerly of the American Film Institute) at the Future of Television conference here this week.

That observation adds a new dimension to the so-called "cord-cutting" topic. Up till now, the topic has been about people opting out of a cable-TV subscription to watch TV over an Internet connection — legally for what Netflix offers and illegally for many HBO shows like "Game of Thrones." But regardless of how users watch the show  — via a digital broadcast or a digital stream over the same thick, black wire — it's still about watching mainstream TV.

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What about shows that aren't from (and may never go to) the broadcast networks or cable channels — from "The Annoying Orange" on YouTube to Ben Stiller's reality dating show spoof "Burning Love" on Yahoo to the sketch comedy found on Funny or Die's website?

"Is it right that everyone wants to migrate to cable?" DeMartino asked, pointing out how "The Annoying Orange" spent two years trying to get onto Cartoon Network. "That's an exception, and they are still getting most of their fan base on the Internet," he said.

Michael Cera, June Diane Raphael in Burning Love

It was a stark contrast to what Joan Gillman of Time Warner Cable said earlier in the morning. "If we can keep up with what the millennials want to see … then we will be just fine," she said. For Time Warner, it's about getting the good online shows — YouTube breakout hits, for example, onto cable.

But a lot of Internet show makers have little or no interest in getting on cable. CollegeHumor is getting millions of views per clip on Web videos such as its "Batman" spoofs. "What's special about our content is we can go directly to our fans and engage them on the platforms they are on," said Shane Rahmani, general manager of CollegeHumor. That also means they are made to "go viral" — get passed along online.

"We watch all this stuff because somebody clicks on it," DeMartino said. "It's not like I wake up the morning and say, 'I wonder what CollegeHumor has to offer today.'" The same goes for the networks, he said. "I never watch Jimmy Fallon on TV. I watch it because it's on the Internet."

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CollegeHumor is also working on a long-form comedy show, Rahmani told Tom's Guide. And it's open to running the show on TV if a cable company is interested, but the show will go on regardless.

College Humor

That goes beyond Netflix making its own HBO-style TV shows like "House of Cards." Pure Internet video isn't designed to be like TV shows or to move onto TV some day. It doesn't need to.

The future of online video might go beyond even Netflix to a site like Blip.tv, a website that acts as a kind of cable TV provider solely for online videos.

It's those 11-year-olds that may really decide what online video means. It might ultimately not be about claiming to cut the cord while actually just switching to the Internet cord to watch all the same shows. It may instead be about not even registering that there is a cord — a thing called "TV" that comes from a cable or satellite company. There's just video, wherever it comes from.

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