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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Daily Report: TV Pilots Turn to Internet, Not Networks

Internet-delivered TV, which until recently was unready for prime time, is the new front in the war for Americans’ attention spans, Brian Stelter reports in Tuesday’s New York Times.

Netflix is following up on the $100 million drama “House of Cards” with four more series this year. Microsoft is producing programming for the Xbox video game console with the help of a former CBS president. Other companies, from AOL to Sony to Twitter, are likely to follow.
The companies are, in effect, creating new networks for television through broadband pipes and also giving rise to new rivalries â€" among one another, as between Amazon.com and Netflix, and with the big but vulnerable broadcast networks as well.

The competition has only just begun. Amazon is making pilot episodes for six comedies and five children’s shows. Sometime this spring it will put the episodes on ts Amazon Prime Instant Video service and ask its customers which ones they like and dislike, then order full seasons of some of them.
Netflix has been ordering entire seasons of its shows without seeing pilots first. Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, said last week that “House of Cards,” the political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, had been a “great success” for the company. Its next program, a horror series called “Hemlock Grove” from the film director Eli Roth, premieres in April.

The two companies are commissioning TV shows because they have millions of subscribers on monthly or yearly subscription plans. Though the shows may be loss leaders, executives like Mr. Hastings say that having exclusive content â€" something that cannot be seen anywhere else â€" increases the likelihood that existing subscribers will keep paying and that new subscribers will sign up.

The proliferation of shows is generally seen as a good thing for viewers, who have! more choices about what to watch and when, and for producers and actors, who have more places to be seen and heard. But the trend may inflame cable companies’ concerns about cord-cutting by subscribers who decide there’s enough to watch online. At the same time, the rise of Internet-only shows may make viewers more dependent on the broadband cord. (In many cases, both connections are supplied by the same company.)