We are going to see a lot of original Web TV shows announced this year with big stars. It’s already happening. Tom Hanks is making a cartoon TV series for Yahoo. Steven Van Zandt is starring in a Web-original drama on Netflix. House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, will also appear on Netflix, along with other original shows (it is also resurrecting Arrested Development for the Web audience). Yahoo is partnering with ABC News for Web video, and licensing original comedy as well and that’s just Yahoo and Netflix. YouTube is spending $100 million on original programming.
Web TV shows no longer have to be second-class citizens. Yahoo, Netflix, YouTube, and maybe even Hulu will increasingly compete for the best shows with cable channels. Could the next Mad Men be a Web TV series? It’s a risky strategy that depends on hits. But TV has always been a hits-driven business. Online will be no different, except that word of mouth (good or bad) travels instantly through social networks. We’ll know whether these shows can become hits much faster than if they were on regular TV.