Why online companies are moving into TV

Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey at Netflix's House Of Cards drama screening

Figures are not out yet for how many people signed up to Netflix in the past week, drawn in by Kevin Spacey's House of Cards drama series, but it marked a significant shift in where we'll find 'must see' TV in the future.

Netflix plan to make at least five new shows a year for their web streaming service and they're not alone.

"I think it will certainly be a very exciting year for online content," notes Director of Amazon Studios, Roy Price.

Price is responsible for making original TV content for Amazon's pay subscription services - Amazon Prime in the US, and Lovefilm in the UK.

"The line between online and 'other' probably starts to become a bit blurred," he admits, adding that Amazon Studios currently has six shows being piloted.

"Right now we have a range," says Price, "we have kids, mostly focusing on pre-school educational content.

"And then on the adult side I would say it is all right now, half hour and comedic in nature."

Microsoft's plans aren't quite as fully formed yet but creating a TV studio in Los Angeles this year is the main objective with original content from all genres being considered.

The programming would sit on Microsoft's Xbox live and use the interactivity that service can offer.

And then there's YouTube, owned by Google.

The online site recently launched its original channels initiative with 20 new channels coming from the UK.

"YouTube gave an advance on future advertising revenue to a few channels," explains Google's Zayna Aston, "to basically help kick start the production of original content on the platform."

'Food Tube'

One of those channels is Jamie Oliver's Food Tube which already has 143,000 subscribers, 13 million video views, and it only launched on 21 January 2013.

Whereas Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix own their content, YouTube does not, choosing to concentrate on its proven technology platform instead.

So should traditional TV networks feel threatened by their online competition?

"I think it will be interesting to see how everything evolves with respect to all the different channels and sources of content," muses Amazon's Roy Price.

"And for now all we can do is create the best service we can and certainly to date we co-exist quite amicably with all of our channel and other programming partners."

Traditional TV channels are not being complacent, with audiences increasingly using on demand services such as itv player, 4OD and the BBC's iPlayer.

Victoria Jaye oversees all of the BBC's TV content online and aside from recent statistics that revealed a 177% year-on-year increase in the use of mobiles and tablets to watch shows on iPlayer, there's been another shift.

iplayer

Jaye says in 2008, 25% of people coming to iPlayer were just browsing.

That's now risen to 42% marking "a change in iPlayer from this catch-up product or utility to a sort of discovery or entertainment experience".

"I think it's really fantastic," reflects Jaye, "that we are seeing the on demand market become creatively competitive with people like Netflix originating content.

"We really want a creative competitive on demand market so for us this is, 'Bring it on!' We're excited."

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