The landscape of how people watch TV is changing. With shows being widely available online, lots of people are turning to Hulu and Netflix to watch their favorite programs. Hulu and Netflix are taking advantage of the increased viewership by creating original content. Both of the online sources have announced plans for scripted shows that will be exclusive to their websites.
Hulu's first scripted show, Battleground, will make its debut on February 14th. It will be available only to subscribers of Hulu Plus. The show is run by Marc Webb, the director of (500) Days of Summer, and JD Walsh. Battleground covers the campaign trail in Wisconsin and will draw upon traditional workplace dramedy elements. This is certainly the right time of year to release a political feature, and I'm sure they're hoping to draw upon that interest. It's not Hulu's first original programming--they also run Morgan Spurlock's A Day In The Life documentary, where he follows around actors and entrepreneurs and the like to capture what takes place in their typical day.
Netflix's first original series, Lilyhammer, will be available to streaming subscribers on February 6th. Whereas Battleground will roll out on a week-by-week basis, Lilyhammer's eight episodes will be available all at once, which is convenient for people that like to watch shows marathon-style. It seems like Netflix is paying attention to how viewers like to use their website. Lilyhammer stars Steve Van Zandt as a New York mobster. He's forced to enter the witness protection program and ends up in Lillehammer, Norway. You can watch the trailer here. Later this year, they'll introduce House of Cards, a David Fincher-directed political thrilled starring Kevin Spacey. Eli Roth and Jenji Kohan are working on their own series for Netflix as well.
Netflix garnered attention last year (and no, I'm not thinking of the whole Quickster fiasco, although that was pretty terrible) when Mitch Hurwitz announced that his beloved series Arrested Development would live on via Netflix. A short season of Arrested Development will hit the site in early 2013, which should hopefully lead the way for the highly anticipated (and almost fabled) movie. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer said of the news, "Of all the projects we've been involved with over the years, we probably get more questions about Mitch Hurtwitz's brilliant 'Arrested Development' than any other-- everyone, ourselves included, seems to feel like the Bluths left the party a bit too soon. Bringing a series back from cancellation almost never happens, but then, 'Arrested' always was about as unconventional as they get, so it seems totally appropriate that this show that broke the mold is smashing it to pieces once again."
Just like regular network TV, factors like advertising money and total number of viewers will influence if online-only shows will work. But with more and more people watching television from their computers, there's a likely chance that this will succeed. This could open up the market for a greater amount of quality scripted programming, but it could also crash and burn. 2012 is most definitely the defining year, so we'll have to wait to see what happens. Will you be watching?