It's not just Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) hoping to make a splash in streaming exclusive content.
Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is green-lighting six pilots that will be available for free through its streaming platform. Based on viewer feedback, Amazon will then decide which show, or shows, to produce. Completed seasons of the winning pilots will be available exclusively at no additional cost through Prime Instant Video service in the U.S. and LOVEFiLM in the U.K.
Netflix has an impressive slate of original programming for 2013. Amazon's pilots for animated and live-action sitcoms don't sound as promising, but there's certainly a bit of star power in the offerings. Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau, The Daily Show writer David Javerbaum, and comedy website The Onion are just some of the notable names heading up some of these projects.
Now that Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are throwing their weight behind original programming -- and even Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) YouTube is bankrolling the production at some of its more successful channels -- is it safe to say that these companies aren't merely gunning at one another?
Digital video has its crosshairs pointed at traditional television, and it's going to be an interesting fight.
Combined primetime ratings for the country's four largest networks have fallen sharply this season, particularly for scripted shows. Live sports and talent shows are still magnetic, but audiences just aren't consuming sitcoms and dramas the way that they used to.
TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) planted the seed that was originally harvested by VCRs. Record a show; watch it when you want to. However, even TiVo couldn't have predicted that even a DVR wouldn't be enough. Folks want to stream shows on their own terms. Why remember to set up a recording? Why only watch one show at a time?
"Binge watching" is what Netflix calls the phenomenon of watching several episodes of a show at once, and it's why the company doesn't put out its exclusive content in weekly installments. It makes entire seasons available at the same time.
YouTube is the country's top video website, and it got there by streaming short clips for folks who don't have time to engage in full-blown episodic television.
Scripted-show producers are now turning to cyberspace to reach an audience, partly because that's where the opportunities now are, but also because that's where the audiences are heading.
Amazon and Netflix may seem to be competitors, but they're really both slugging it out with conventional TV. For now, the dot-com darlings are winning.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Google, and Netflix. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Amazon.com, Google, and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.