The 5 Links That Matter in Online TV at the End of 2009

At this time of year every blog, zine, site, and paper writes their End Of The Year wrap-up for whatever field it is that they cover – so I guess that means that I should be doing the same.

I’m not going to do it.

It would take too long and the play-by-play doesn’t really matter. All that matters is the outcome. At the end of 2009, only five links count in Online Television. Here they are.

1. Hulu – OK, there have been hints that they’re going to end the all-free gravy train. One of the three big partners got 51% swallowed by Comcast. And you still can’t watch it on an iPhone. It doesn’t matter. That ton of dough they dropped in 2009 worked and Hulu is a household name in more non-geek households than anybody.

2. Netflix – After killing Blockbuster, they’re going after PPV in a big way. They’re positioning themselves less as a DVD rental company and more of an entertainment delivery company. It’s working. Netflix is becoming THE name in net-connected devices from Blu-Ray Players and videogame consoles to the Boxee Box and even HDTVs themselves.

3. YouTube – Sure, Old Media loves portraying YouTube as a bunch of shaky cellphone videos and latter-day Wayne’s World clones – and the tech press still loves to poo-poohs them over techy things like getting stingy with their API, but Aunt Fran and Uncle Steve can’t be swayed. They know all about the YouTube and have spent a lot of fun time there. Through 2009, YouTube has still made comparatively few deals with TV and Movie networks, but they’ve given birth to more Internet Originals than anyone could count. Did anyone care how many radio stars the TV networks had in 1949? You Betcha! Did anyone care how many radio stars the TV networks had in 2009? Not in the least. We’re still very early in the first inning, folks. This will be a long game. And don’t forget, YouTube beat Hulu and Netflix to the iPhone by going on three years. Don’t underestimate the power of portability.

4. InstantWatcher – I’ve seen a few proto-aggregates pop up from time to time (including at this very website), but none lasted. At the end of 2009 the shining star seems to be InstantWatcher. It’s clean, fast, and easy. It’s like the Craigslist of finding streaming content on Netflix. Let’s hope they expand to include more sources.

5. iTunes – Apple customers can go out and get content from a variety of sources, but if you want to sell stuff TO those customers you have to go through Apple first. Apple doesn’t restrict me from using Handbrake or Evom and filling my iPhone with free content from the net and DVD rentals, but there is only ONE built-in “just press here” way to get content: the iTunes Store. Apple banks on laziness and ineptitude. It doesn’t matter if these tools have gotten “just five clicks and you are done” easy, most people don’t know this and don’t care enough to find out. The iTunes Store is relatively cheap, very easy, and (most importantly) right there. Who cares if it costs a dollar more? For most people it’s worth the dollar to save the time and effort to learn the other way. That’s not even taking free podcasts into account. Apple doesn’t sell (or even host!) podcast content, but they are the largest aggregate of Internet Originals and Studio Content, both free and paid. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

That’s it. That’s Who’s Who at the End of 2009. Don’t sweat it too much. At this point it’s likely to change as often as the weather and every player in my List of Links ( —-> —-> —-> —-> —-> —-> —–> —-> —-> —-> ) will be vying for number one.

Disagree? That’s what the comments are for.

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