Internet making linear TV outdated, in favor of on-demand programming

The Takeaway

Last Thursday, Hulu, the online streaming service, unveiled new original programming. This, coupled with the recent news that Netflix will produce a fourth season of the critically acclaimed show Arrested Development, has many wondering if the internet is making traditional linear television obsolete.

Brian Stelter, media reporter for The New York Times, said he watches programs on both TV and the Internet, but he also said he believes there are more benefits to watching shows online.

“It’s almost like there’s two opposing forces at play here, this generation-long shift over to the web and over to on-demand viewing. Let’s be honest. Most television is better on-demand. Why watch live if you don’t have to? On the other hand, there’s this tendency to watch shows live because all of our friends are talking about them online, so I love this battle that’s going on, this tug-of-war between the two,” Stelter said.

Stelter said he doesn’t think the TV will go extinct, but he believes in more of a hybrid model for the future of programming.

“To the point about Hulu announcing its own original shows last week and promoting them to advertisers, that’s the direction we’re moving in, a more complicated world where some shows we watch are on TV, the old fashioned way, and some shows we watch are online, the new way, and some are a mix of both,” Stelter said.

As Stelter noted in an article for The NY Times last February, there may be a generational divide among viewers.

“Americans ages 12 to 34 are spending less time in front of TV sets, even as those 35 and older are spending more, according to research that will be released on Thursday by Nielsen…” he wrote.

The push from online services for original programming may represent a power shift between the two mediums.

“We’re finally at the point where a company like Hulu, which is funded by NBC, Fox, ABC and a private equity firm, they can now produce a show that is as good as a traditional NBC or ABC or Fox show,” Stelter said. “I’ve been waiting for a while for that to happen because at first a lot of videos we’d see on the web, on sites like YouTube, were amateurish. They were not replacements for a show like The Office or 30 Rock or New Girl or Fringe. Well now, some of these shows are that good online.”

Stelter believes the Internet will ultimately be beneficial for the viewer because it expands both the range and financing available for creating content. However, maximizing returns will require more effort from the viewer.

“It requires us to think more when programming our menu or our diets, so to speak, of television,” Stelter said. “In the future you’re going to watch some shows online, some shows on TV and you’re going to watch on both. You know, Arrested Development being the best example. Netflix has gone out and they’ve said, ‘Wow Arrested Development is so popular among our customers, that old Fox show, that we’re going to make new episodes of it, and they’re only going to be available on Netflix.’  And I think we’re going to see a lot more of those experiments in the future as websites get really good at figuring out what we want to watch.”

Currently, Hulu has eight original programs, and Netflix has one, with four more scheduled for the future.

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