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August 30, 2015

Top TV Stories of 2009: The continued rise of online video

by Annie Wu, posted Dec 23rd 2009 2:05PM
alec baldwin for hulu
When Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Emmys, Dr. Horrible conveniently invaded for a moment, spreading webseries fear throughout the TV industry audience. It was a funny bit, serving mainly as a vehicle for some jokes about buffering and tiny screen sizes. Hopefully that made the TV people feel better, if only for a little while, because online video is showing no signs of stopping.

Of course, YouTube is still a driving force and massive community. That thing will never die. In 2009, we didn't get anything quite as big as the Rickroll or "Charlie Bit My Finger -- Again!" (fun fact: the new number one YouTube video now, after a long reign by that annoying dancing guy), but we did get Keyboard Cat and David After Dentist. Not together, though.

Online video has become a legit competition; companies are finally starting to realize just how much money can be made from this. Instead of fighting it, the bigwigs are learning to accept the inevitable and finding out how it can work for them.

Hulu was especially aggressive in getting themselves out there, associating themselves with other companies to use their players (like AOL's SlashControl -- oh dear, how did our parent company's link get in there?). They also debuted a few television ads featuring stars like Denis Leary and Eliza Dushku and even Alec Baldwin in their big Super Bowl commercial. It was an unusual angle, casually 'fessing up about being evil aliens bent on turning our brains into cheesy goo via nonstop online entertainment ("Because we're aliens. And that's how we roll"). But everyone knows that watching TV online makes your insides mush, so we're cool with it.

Popular television shows have continued to put out web-exclusive content. For example, Ugly Betty's Marc and Amanda goof around Mode after-hours and a few Dunder-Mifflin folks from The Office got together to show off some subtle sexuality. See? Secondary characters like to do stuff too.

Even web series are getting in on the action. A few previously independent web-only series have found success in grabbing sponsors, opening up the Internet as yet another place one can make money for serial roles. The first example I thought of was Felicia Day's The Guild, which started off as something very independent. Then, in late 2008, a deal was struck with Microsoft, inking an exclusive distribution deal. That's quite a step from having to take PayPal donations after running out of season one production money. Since then, the last two seasons have been premiering and streaming on Microsoft sites several weeks before The Guild's official site.

Yeah! Online video! It's a thing.

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