How The Web Watches TV

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 30 2012 @ 9:53am

Pivoting off Tristan Louis' list of the top television shows and whether they're available to stream online, Tim Carmody draws a distinction:

With live television, we flip; with video on demand, we binge. This means that shows have to catch and hold our attention in very different ways — not just over the commercial, but from episode to episode, season to season, and from television to videogames, Facebook, or whatever else might capture our attention on a web-connected device.

Crucially, these differences mean that we gravitate to different content. Many of the most popular, highest-rated shows hold relatively little appeal if seen through a video-on-demand streaming service. The converse is also true; some of the most successful streaming shows (like NBC’s Community) struggle to find a corresponding audience on broadcast television.

He quotes Andy Forssell, a senior VP for Hulu:

We’ll look for content that’s beloved not beliked. The content that really pays off and punches above its weight in our ecosystem is a show that somebody’s going to see and then they want to go e-mail five of their friends or get on Facebook and post about it…[W]e’re much more excited about Community [than Two and a Half Men] because while it’s a smaller audience, it’s an audience that self-organizes online.