Are Online Streaming Services the New TV Networks?

Netflix has added a few new web-series. Amazon is said to have 48 movies and TV shows in development. A number of cancelled TV shows are finding new life as they go into production with new episodes to be exclusively streamed online. The growing number of online-only streaming series is beginning to make die-hard TV viewers sit up and take notice. Maybe we can cut the cable cord and get all of our entertainment online.

Netflix is serious about its development of exclusive, original programming. The company has committed 100 million dollars for House of Cards starring two-time Oscar Winner Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network). If you aren't a Netflix subscriber, you can check out the pilot episode through the end of February at The series that also stars Robin Wright and Kate Mara is a drama about greed, sex, love and corruption in Washington DC and is based on a BBC miniseries of the same name.

Unlike a weekly TV series where you must wait until the next installment, Netflix posted the whole 13 episode "season" at once. Critics speculated that viewers would "binge," watching the whole season in a short time, but Netflix claims that hasn't been the case. I agree. I recently discovered a previous season of USA Network's White Collar and while I might watch a couple of episodes in a sitting, I'm not motivated to pull an all-night TV marathon. I've always hated having to wait when an episode ends with a cliff-hanger, and I like having the option to watch the next episode right away.

According to a Netflix blog, the company streamed more than 2 billion hours of kid's content in 2012. It makes sense that Netflix would look into producing original children's programming. Netflix has announced that they will produce a cartoon series based on Dreamworks Animation's upcoming film Turbo: F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Stunt Team). The animated feature will be released in theaters July 2013. The lead character of Turbo is a snail whose unusual speed leads him to compete in the the Indianapolis 500.

Amazon Instant Video's subscription service, Amazon Prime, has plans to air eleven original pilot episodes including Alpha House starring John Goodman (Flight, Argo, The Big Lebowski, and the classic TV series Roseanne).

Beyond the original series productions, cancelled TV shows that have strong followings are getting a rebirth on Netflix and other streaming services. Fourteen new episodes of the Fox show Arrested Development will be revived six years after it was cancelled. The show, which is about a quirky, dysfunctional family, includes among its cast Henry Winkler, Scott Baio, Judy Greer, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, and David Cross with Liza Minnelli in a recurring guest role. The show is slated to be available in May.

When the long running All My Children, and One Life to Live soap operas were cancelled, they vowed to return to their faithful followers by finding a new life online. While it took several months of negotiations, both shows will be available in May 2013 through Hulu Plus and iTunes. New shows will be available each weekday just as they had been for the 30-plus years they were on television. Certainly, this can bring a large audience of women that might not have otherwise subscribed to Hulu's premium subscription service.

This is only a partial list of TV-network-quality programming that is becoming available exclusively online. Although I still record prime-time TV, I often find it easier to find the shows I'm interested in in my subscriptions list on Hulu Plus. I'm enjoying House of Cards and looking for new series and TV shows I missed when they first aired. I like the freedom of watching what I want when I want without having to wait for the next episode to air. When you consider how the latest crop of Web-enabled TVs give traditional TV viewing and streaming services equal billing, it looks like we are moving from a TV-centric entertainment paradigm to one based on streaming. Are you ready to cut the cord?