In the early days of television, CBS dubbed itself the Tiffany network, the network that was classier than the others. Is there any online video equivalent to that? Is that even possible?
The idea of a self-consciously quality-oriented video Website seems relevant as YouTube and others grow their own channels and as, increasingly more Websites produce their own video.
Certainly there are rules, but in a Internet universe that has grown in large part because it accommodates a range of ideas and tastes, it’s my guess that having standards is mainly a thematic concept. It’s not a qualitative wall that Websites construct to keep in the things they want, or keep out material they don’t.
But access to the public really doesn’t mean much, if not much is done with it.
For example, in the average American cable home, viewers can access something like 118 channels, but they only watch 16 of them a week, for at least ten minutes of more. The world will not long remember Tru TV, thank God, nor, on the Internet, Justin Bieber. He might as well have been Honey Boo Boo.
According to a blog post by MediaPost’s Steve Smith the few people with Web-connected TV sets are using them mainly to watch Hulu or Netflix-like programming, which sounds reasonable. But as those sites develop their own programs they shouldn’t be surprised if consumers aren’t ecstatic. It’s hard to believe that many people in this nation, anyway, are aching for more of the same market research-driven programming. Nudity, violence and salty language just ain’t gonna cut it. That’s s been done.
Being quality-oriented is tough work. .
Online video, though, beckons to go beyond being the host for viral hits. It seems to have its work cut out, perhaps starting with the modest acknowledgment that many “viral” hits are by another name, “flukes,” videos that attained notoriety because they’re odd, not excellent. That’s not much to build an empire upon.
It might be time, or even past time, for an online video provider to actually strive for brilliance, all the time.
In 1958, Edward R. Murrow, the icon of CBS News, gave his famous speech about the danger that television would become nothing more than “wires and lights in a box” unless it tried harder to be more than that. The part of the speech I now find interesting today is this one: “The oldest excuse of the networks for their timidity is their youth. Their spokesmen say, ‘"We are young; we have not developed the traditions nor acquired the experience of the older media.’ If they but knew it, they are building those traditions, creating those precedents every day.”
So it is for online video. There’s a lot of greatness ahead, perhaps, if that is what its purveyors choose to do. If not? Wires and lights in a box again.