Writer’s strike = online boon? How do they figure?

There’s been a considerable amount written, first as a prediction and now as a factual report about the “impact” that the Hollywood writer’s strike will/is having on the online video world. And while I’m all for manufacturing stories (hence the blog), I’m saddened that in all my reading on the subject, nobody seemed to be predicting what actually happened – that TV reruns have no direct correlation to online video audiences.

I mean, why would they?

Think about it… television has long been built for mass audiences. Not 30 years ago, there were only three networks which managed to serve up all of the video programming to hundreds of millions of Americans. Much more recently, cable has come along and started cannibalizing that audience tremendously (this aside from the emergence of a fourth network in Fox) which, as far as I can figure, is where this thought that online video would benefit from a writer’s strike in the same way came from.

The problem is, most folks who are writing these articles are people who understand content from a more holistic perspective.  Sure, lots of us in the industry understand that in the digital age, video content is video content, whether produced by a national network or a pot smoking teenager.  But struggling to explain my job to relatives at holiday family party is always more than enough to remind me that a MASSIVE (I can’t overstate the massiveness) percentage of the general population still don’t entirely “get” the internet.  They know what Google is, they know how to check sports scores, they send email and they might even read the odd online article or horoscope, but honestly, how many people get home from work, sit down and think to themselves “I wonder what’s on YouTube tonight??”.  I’m going to go ahead and guess none.

Let’s face it, online video has a strong and growing market, but more of this growth is occurring when five year olds become old enough to use the internet the way their twelve year old brother does, than when 40 year old life-long TV watchers angrily turn to YouTube because they can’t bear to watch another episode of “Deal or No Deal”.
A mature online video market is certainly on its way, but it will arrive through slow growth over time rather than a massive defection of loyal TV viewers who get fed up with the fact that “Medium” is in re-runs.  Let’s try and be a little more patient, shall we?