Can video sites crack the original content code? HBO did.


You may have heard lately that online video sites like YouTube and Hulu are launching more original content.

Hard to resist, from their perspective.

Imagine having hundreds of millions of people come to your site every month to watch somebody else’s content.  In YouTube’s case, that somebody else is you and your pet videos.  On Hulu it’s re-runs of real programming.

Anyway, where were we…oh, yes, hundreds of millions of people.  And the ad revenue that comes with them.

You know what this reminds me of?

Grocery stores.

All those people, all that money going to Kraft, General Mills and Coca-Cola.  I’d like to have been the guy pitching the supermarket CEO with bar charts and this idea:  “Let’s just sell our own soup and paper towels and keep a whole lot more of the money ourselves!”

If Hulu makes the shows that people watch on their site, they can keep all the ad revenue instead of paying the folks who own the reruns they’re airing now.

And, if the show’s any good, they can draw more people to their site since it probably won’t be available elsewhere.  More people = more ad revenue.  The irony is that if the show’s really, really good, it’ll probably end up on TV.

If being the operative word.

Quick, tell me your favorite original content, online-only show.

We’ve had, what, five years of decent enough bandwidth during which someone could have created a legitimate online national programming hit.  I’m talking Glee, not College Humor (look it up).   Why hasn’t it happened?  It’s not for lack of audience.   Everyone is online.

Here’s why:  because it’s practically impossible to create a hit show.  Just ask NBC, they’ve been trying for years.  And, by try, I mean they pay boatloads for the best writers, directors, producers, and actors in the world.  Then, they promote the hell out of every new show.  And still, no Friends replacement.

Personally, though, I’m glad the online folks are going after original content.  I think it will drive us to more of an iTunes content consumption model than the ridiculous album-like equation we have currently.  Today we’re forced to buy 6000 channels and a gazillion programs every month, even though we only watch about ten of them.  If Hulu or NetFlix or even Yahoo or AOL can make it so I only have to pay for the programming I watch, I’m better off by at least fifty bucks a month I figure.

Tough as it’ll be to create original content with mass appeal and audience online, one thing’s for sure:  it’ll never happen if they don’t try.

Hey, once upon a time HBO just showed re-runs, too.

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1 comment to Can video sites crack the original content code? HBO did.

  • Julie Campbell

    So, I just saw this column on Mary Greer’s Facebook page. I swear, every single one you write tells me something I didn’t already know and reminds me of what a really good writer you are.

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