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Will the Next 'Game of Thrones' or 'Mad Men' Come From Web TV?

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The choices Americans have for home television entertainment have never been more diverse: There’s the traditional television networks like CBS (CBS), ABC (DIS), NBC (CMCSK) and Fox (NWS). There’re also the myriad of cable offerings from the likes of  HBO (TWX), Showtime, and also direct broadcast satellite services like Direct TV (DTV) or the Dish Network (DISH).
The similarity with all of the offerings above, of course, is that you have to access them through your television. However, this is slowly but surely starting to change, especially if companies like Yahoo (YHOO) and Netflix (NFLX) have anything to say about it.
As TechCrunch reports, web companies have plans to ramp up production of original TV shows for the Internet this year in a bid to change the viewing habits of customers, and they’ve gotten some serious star power to ensure these projects will be successful.
For example, Yahoo will be launching an animated web series, Electric City, featuring Tom Hanks, while Neflix will produce a Kevin Spacey-starring web drama called House of Cards. Not to be outdone, Youtube (GOOG) has plans to spend $100 million on original web content and Hulu too has entered the original web tv content fray.

Making TV shows for the web is nothing new. What is new is the level of commitment in terms of dollars and star power being thrown at Web video. Netflix viewers spend 10 hours a month watching streaming video, quadruple the time spent on YouTube or Hulu. Part of that is because Netflix shows feature-length movies, but part of it also is the quality of those movies and the familiarity of the actors who star in them.

The fact that Yahoo was able to convince a Hollywood powerhouse like Tom Hanks to bring his cartoon to an online platform indicates that web TV is now ready to compete with the big boys of broadcast networks and cable channels.

It’s definitely a big risk in investing heavily on original content, but if the success of original, if niche, cable programming like HBO’s Game of Thrones or AMC’s (AMCX) Mad Men is anything to go by, Americans will follow good quality television where it goes, even if it’s on a computer screen instead of a TV screen.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.