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Pioneering a New Distribution Path

11/07/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Many independent content providers
believe the Internet and other alternative
platforms will eventually offer a viable distribution
options for their product. Two recently
announced Web-based content deals may put
that faith to the test.

YouTube, known mostly for user-generated
videos of singing cats and flash-mob dancers,
will offer 96 channels of professionally-developed
entertainment, news and sports content.

Content partners that have already signed up
for the channel offerings include a who’s who
of entertainment, including Shaquille O’Neal,
Ashton Kutcher and Deepak Chopra. Media
companies such as Hearst Magazines, The Wall
Street Journal
and even World Wrestling Entertainment will
also program channels.

YouTube and its partners hope to attract viewers and
advertisers to the online offerings. The jury’s still out on
whether the YouTube platform can generate sufficient revenue
to support the costs of producing quality content. But
the Google-owned website is providing an outlet for programmers
to offer wares that almost assuredly wouldn’t
see the light of day on bandwidth-challenged cable systems
if they went knocking on Comcast or Time Warner
Cable’s doors.

Ironically, today’s nascent YouTube-originated networks
are comparable to what BET, ESPN and CNN
were to cable during its early days.

Another Web-based distribution opportunity
for independent producers comes from
actor/producer Byron Allen, whose Entertainment
Studios company last week launched
SmartTV.com.

The service will allow subscribers to watch
live television networks on computers as well
as other mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads,
Android phones and Roku set-top boxes for fees
that start as low as $1.99 a month.

Allen has already launched his six high-definition based networks on the service and is inviting
other independent networks to do the
same, with the expectation of launching 100 channels
within the next 24 months.

By expanding the reach of small and independent networks
across numerous platforms, Allen is hoping to maximize
reach for startup and small networks while giving
consumers the opportunity to choose how and when they
want to access content.

Again, for upstart content providers, the revenue realities
of Web distribution have yet to be determined. But
YouTube and SmartTV at the very least are giving newbie
content providers something that cable television can
rarely provide anymore: a chance to be seen.

September