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The New Networks

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A few years ago, they didn't exist. A few years from now, they may be indistinguishable from the broadcast networks they were patterned after. Right now, they play a major role in bringing content to your living room and shaping the field of online video.

I'm talking about blip.tv, Revision3, and Next New Networks (NNN), the three online networks. If you've watched episodic shows online, there's a good chance you've seen their content. "Obama Girl"? The Diggnation guys? Wine Library TV? You'll find those popular shows and many more with the online big three.

Content Is Key
The importance of a network is obvious in the broadcast world, where not everyone can produce and air a show. But why are they needed at all online? After all, video sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo already do a great job of bringing you thousands and thousands of online shows. Anyone who dreams of stardom can easily create a video and upload it. So why organize content into networks, anyway?

"In the old days, ‘network' meant that they owned a broadcast tower or they owned a berth with cable providers that guaranteed them a certain household penetration. On the internet, there is no barrier to entry. Anyone can launch a show online, anyone can launch a new channel online tomorrow," says Tim Shey, co-founder and head of audience development at NNN.

"When you put a video on the internet, you're competing with every other video that's ever been made. So it's not as easy as owning a channel and getting a rating," says Shey. "We started thinking a lot about how you'd have to reinvent television networks for the internet, and we thought networks could still play a really valuable role.

"For one thing, it's a way for viewers to find content they like," continues Shey. "One of our networks is called Indy Mogul; it's a network we created for people who really like movies and who love filmmaking. Whenever you watch an Indy Mogul video-we have five or six shows that run on the Indy Mogul network-whenever you watch one of those shows, you see branding for the Indy Mogul network, just like when you watch Jon Stewart, you see Comedy Central branding. For us, that becomes a really important navigation. If you're searching for a video about Avatar and 100 video results come up, and you've watched Indy Mogul videos before, and you see an Indy Mogul video in those results, our hope is that you're more likely to click on our video, the Indy Mogul-branded video, than the other videos there, because you've already identified with that brand as something that creates videos that you like. When we first started the company 3 years ago, that was considered a pretty crazy concept." NNN recently served it's one billionth video.

Next New Networks

Presenting worthwhile content is one of the main reasons for online networks to exist. While NNN organizes shows into subnetworks such as Indy Mogul, Revision3 targets the young, male tech geek with its entire body of shows. In each case, the idea is the same: If you like one of the network's shows, you might like another.

"We try to build a certain kind of reputation, a certain kind of brand, so there's an expectation of the type of content you're going to get, the type of quality you're going to get, and even the type of audience that we're making programming for," says David Prager, co-founder of Revision3 and vice president of special projects.

The online networks get their shows and build their library of content in a variety of ways. While NNN and Revision3 create content in-house and also work with outside creators, blip.tv works exclusively with outside talent. Not only that, but it will sign anyone who comes along.

"When you end up producing content, you are more a studio than you are a network. It just so happens that [in] the last 30-40 years, for reasons of margins and economics, the television networks merged with studios. The NBC/Universal merger was completed not all that long ago. Before that, NBC did not have studios; they bought shows from studios and broadcast them," says Mike Hudack, blip.tv's CEO. 

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