Customizing Content for New TV Devices

Classic shows like 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' are finding new life and new audiences Online.

Classic shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle are finding new life and new audiences Online. hide caption

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If you missed Wednesday night's Rose Bowl nail-biter, don't worry — you can download a 15-minute highlight reel on Apple's iTunes music store, and watch it on your video iPod.

It's just another example of how technology is causing unprecedented change in the world of television. In the second of a three-part series on the future of television, Rick Karr looks at how new technologies are influencing what television viewers are more likely to watch.

One word that sums up the future? "More." As more television becomes available over the Internet, viewers will be able to choose from a nearly infinite number of channels. New technologies allow viewers to catch small glimpses of shows on cell phones, computers or video iPods, without having to watch the whole thing. Viewers can also get scenes of shows never shown on traditional broadcasts.

Benjamin Silverman, who runs the production company that makes the U.S. version of the British comedy The Office, says some of the show's scenes are enjoyable by themselves, and Web users might get extras regular television viewers won't see.

"I might create another scene that's just for the Online user," Silverman says. "There's so much editing that we do, and there are so many scenes that get cut out of shows, this could be a new outlet for those scenes."

Consumers now have access to once-expensive video editing tools that have the potential of unleashing a torrent of content on the Web. Amateurs and independent auteurs will be able to create their own shows, with production values often equal to those of big-time studios.

And old shows are finding new life on the Internet, too. Episodes of classics like Rocky and Bullwinkle and Lassie — shows with plenty of fans, but not enough for broadcasters to add the shows to their lineups — are now available on Web sites.

But the new "convergence" of television and the Web could mean real challenges for programmers trying to create audiences for new shows. For example, the hit shows Cheers and Friends weren't immediate hits, but eventually found their audiences when networks put them either before or after established shows, and promoted the new shows with commercials. Google and Yahoo! might fill the gap by helping viewers find new Web-based shows they might like.

Another challenge is local news and programming — some experts are worried that in a Web-based television future, where networks are delivering content directly to viewers, local affiliates will simply disappear.

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