Commentary

TV's 2010 Upfront Faces Five Years' Worth Of YouTube

The upfront presentations are in full swing this week -- all on the fifth-year anniversary of YouTube.

Twenty-four hours of video are still uploaded every minute to the Web area, virtually all with no advertising sponsorship attached.

After five years, traditional TV advertisers remain wary of videos of cats falling off almost everything, grown-up lions licking adult caregivers, children singing with robotic voices, and stoic wedding ceremonies breaking out into wild hip-hop song and dance.

What do we have from the networks this year? The opposite end of the spectrum: a massive number of scripted television shows. No reality competition shows, game shows, or singing contests (though we will be assured of getting some of these as the season goes on).

TV networks realized that while the democratization of video on the Internet is great for viewers, that's only one piece of the puzzle. Those who said YouTube-type content would take over the world were right -- er, wrong.

The $70 billion TV advertising market is still far ahead of the Internet's $30 billion, and way beyond just the digital video advertising segment, sitting around $1 billion, with leaders YouTube and Hulu pulling in around $200 million a piece. This year, the expectation is that 20% more money will come back into the TV upfront market, which will perhaps get up to $8 billion or so.

The shiny new fascination of Internet video has gotten a bit dulled.  Some might say the next wave might look more familiar.

"Heroes," "Law & Order," and other shows have been cancelled. What would it be worth to some viewers -- or advertisers -- to continue those shows, not on cable, but online? Maybe it would come with the price of a iTunes music download. It's still a digital pennies versus traditional TV dollars market, after all. So, unless a big sponsor steps forward, that kind of stuff won't be happening anytime soon.

So here's to the next light-hearted crime procedural-medical-family-drama which might pull in 10 million viewers a week. YouTube? Right now, it only does two billion worldwide views a day.

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