Online Original Programming: at the Tipping Point

Online Original Programming: at the Tipping Point

Awards season is in full swing in Hollywood. It's a magical time of the year when artists, producers and distributors all dress up in their finery to walk red carpets and bask in the glow of recognition for their craft.

This past weekend, Tinseltown played host to an entirely different type of entertainment industry awards ceremony than those we have come to expect: the Streamy Awards. That's correct! Streamy as in streaming. I was very excited to learn that there is an entire awards program--streamed live online of course--devoted to recognizing accomplishments in the online video content world. The ceremony has enough "cred" that famous people--i.e. Larry King, Jamie Kennedy and Shontelle--attend, meanwhile winners include Hollywood heavyweights such as Tom Hanks and major brands such as Red Bull.

The celebration of original online video content a la the Streamy Awards is indicative of much broader shifts in the online content ecosystem. As this post from LA Weekly notes, online content allows artists and creators to interact with consumers in a one-to-one manner that mainstream media hasn't yet mastered--although dual-screen technology is moving the media and entertainment industry forward in that regard. More prominently, though, is the strong positioning that original, streaming content has gained in a highly truncated period.

For instance, who hasn't heard of the immense success of Netflix's House of Cards? Just last week, the company said the series is the service's most-watched programming. Not only that, but Netflix is using the show as "bait"--offering it up for free to non-subscribers for a limited time, presumably in an effort to draw more members into its subscription fold. As a former Netflix subscriber, I admit I was skeptical when the company first announced its original content plans. They showed me. Through smart marketing and viewer analytics and measurement, Netflix created a content recipe for success. Interestingly, this Fast Company post suggests that "big data" is actually the driving force behind House of Cards' popularity. As with all online video content, a thorough understanding of your audience and their decision-making habits is key. Soon, Netflix will make another foray into original programming, this time offering up educational children's material. This spring, Arrested Development will return exclusively on Netflix.

Of course, Netflix isn’t the only big name tapping into consumers' vast appetite for video on demand. Hulu and YouTube are also aggressively pursuing the title for "most successful online video content purveyor." As in all business situations, competition is a good thing. Ultimately, the end viewer will benefit through an array of high-quality streaming content. And, it's not just the typical, established entertainment players that are entering the original content race; major brands are also creating their own original Web content--with some succeeding more than others.

Bottom line: as original online video content continues to "come of age," it's plausible that in the not-too-distant future, events such as the Streamy Awards may indeed have a following similar to the Emmys and the Oscars.