If you think there are too many channels on your TV, good luck keeping up with the websites. TV keeps migrating into cyberspace, and it's not just the broadcasting networks that are getting into the fun. Social networking websites, search portals, and video-sharing sites are becoming the new launch pads.
Take Quarterlife, for example. A quickly canned pilot two years ago, ABC is ready to give it another go online. The creators -- who have their pedigree papers as the creators of former hit network shows thirtysomething and My So-Called Life -- will launch the series in two months. It won't be on a network website. Quarterlife will stream exclusively on News Corp.'s
It's not the first time that MySpace's fast-growing video-sharing site has become the hub of an online serial. It's where the springtime viral sensation Prom Queen got its start. It's where Lonelygirl15 decided to screen its 12-episode season finale last month.
Few of these deals are exclusive, though. In the pursuit of greater audiences, producers may make a certain website the home for a series, but then disseminate the episodic installments through other traffic magnets like Google's
Quantity dukes it out with Quality
Most of these shows wouldn't last in the competitive world of primetime on major networks. Even seasoned filmmakers often find themselves dealing with shoestring production budgets, mediocre acting, and flimsy writing. Those shortcomings are overcome by the convenience and simplicity of the art form.
In a testament to the time-shifting that made TiVo
However, the real secret sauce here is in making the most of the Internet to generate a cult following. Lonelygirl15 did it by launching a namesake community website, interacting with its members through the occasional clue hunt or alternate reality game. Quarterlife aims to be a themed social network to keep its fan base engaged and close.
The empires strike back
The networks are responding. Disney's
Networks aren't dumb. They know they need to go online to reach consumers who have traded in their couches for their computer armchairs. However, this is where the "Wide" in World Wide Web becomes all too apparent. The competition is everywhere. A website like Yahoo!
In short, don't be confident that because networks are taking their supply where the demand is that they won't suffer in the migration. Without getting into the costly self-serve streams or the tricky monetization, it's not easy to compete on a level playing field, even when you have the buck-banked productions. This is more than an opportunity. It's a challenge.
A stroll through the established online serial stars:
Yahoo! and Disney are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. If you want to make an online serial, arm yourself with a good crew and a steady flow of stock picks that you can get with a free, 30-day trial newsletter subscription.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't have the time to watch all the online shows, but he does have his favorites. He owns shares in Disney and TiVo. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.