If 2011 was the year that the world became completely besotted by viral videos, then 2012 will be the year where original content hosted by online video sites broke through to challenge the waning dominance of the television media and its network overlords.
With the most popular YouTube channels gaining billions of hits a month and gaining thousands in the subsequent advertising revenue, television is rapidly becoming a less attractive prospect for the future of producing and watching television or films.
Netflix have just announced that their first original series Lilyhammer will debut in early February. The show stars Steven Van Zandt reprising a Silvio-esque role as a gangster moving to Norway in a witness protection scheme, with dramatic and comedic consequences.
The trailer shows off some pretty high production values (perhaps a reason for the price hike for rentals) and certainly looks like it could sit alongside some of the glossy efforts from network stalemates such as HBO and BBC.
There is going to be a raft of original content funded by YouTube, Netflix and other online video production houses released this year but this first effort from Netflix is setting precedents all over the place and importantly throws up two very important points.
Firstly, the series is being released on 6 February, eight parts in a boxset form. This is an interesting move considering the status quo of the television industry and the prerogative of the established networks is to build anticipation and hype by releasing episodes on a weekly basis. Netflix knows all about boxsets though as it has been renting them to consumers since its inception. Could this experiment ensure the maximum number of views for the series?
Its hard not to get stuck in to a box set of great television if you have it at your disposal the tendency is to greedily watch as much as you can. I seem to remember watching the majority of The Pacific in one night and have done so with several other shows such as The Wire, The Shield and Game Of Thrones. Ultimately it comes down to quality, but Lilyhammer is looking pretty good at this stage.
The second point is interesting when it comes to awards season. It is a very entertaining thought to consider that one day we could be watching a YouTube original series going up against an HBO counterpart for a Globe, Bafta or Emmy prize. Will they get their own category, or in a world rapidly turning to online devices to watch television will they be counted amongst their more classically presented peers?
One of the main problems for studios dealing with the online sphere remains the piracy element, but there are ways around it. Stand-Up comedian Louis CK recently released a show online for the low price of $5 encouraging viewers not to download the show, "It's only $5". He has just announced that after checking his Paypal account he has made over a million dollars from the experiment. Imagine if the Christopher Nolan put the Dark Knight prologue online and charged a few dollars to see it. Wouldn't you rather watch the full HD version? Without having to watch Tom Cruise or a crackly Daily Motion cam effort, ears up against the speakers trying desperately to work out what Bane is saying.