Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cable cutters lead the charge toward web TV

Web television should be huge, right?  It isn’t, at least not yet. But a growing number of folks disenchanted with commercial TV are cutting the (cable) cord - opting to search the web for better (and often free) programming. I myself recently cancelled my cable service (as an experiment) and frankly I am astonished by the wealth of online video I'd happily view on my TV screen. 

There’s Hulu and iTunes for standard TV fare, but lesser known sources for news, interviews, documentaries, concerts and lectures abound. Among my favorites are TEDLink TV, Factual TV, Flora TV and PBS. Another great find is Academic Earth, which aggregates university lectures (including courses taught at Ivy League institutions). I’m now enjoying Yale’s semester course on the History of Roman Architecture and it's absolutely free. I'm also following overseas news outlets like RT Russian TV, Mosaic World News and Al Jezeera

Finding quality programs online is much easier thanks to, a search engine that combs the web for free and fee-based video. recently launched an integration app with Facebook that even suggests programs based on your profile and friend “likes.” 

Web-based TV is still pretty raw, of course. There are big industry hurdles to clear before platforms like Google TV can deliver programs of prime-time caliber; networks and cable operators still have a lock on big-time shows, after all. 

But who's to say that indie talent won't popularize entirely new forms of TV devised just for the web? 

Right now there's growing interest in transmedia - richly integrated entertainment delivered across multiple channels. Early executions have aired on NBC, Disney, Nat Geo Channel and MTV. Tablet computers fit neatly into this trend by making it easy to converge web streams onto one screen. 

For sure the way we watch television will dramatically change. A must-read on this subject is Jessi Hempel's story "What the hell is going on with TV?" in Fortune magazine. 

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