It is no secret that cable TV is suffering the effects of web-content providers like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. Because of improved technology — and the high fees that cable providers demand — users are revisiting streaming content that once was choppy and slow, but now differs little from the quality one sees on TV, at a fraction of the price. In the transitioning TV industry, networks are placing their chips on the various web platforms that will someday define the norm in home entertainment.
In hopes of re-engaging its under-25 market, Discovery announced this week the launch of a new network called TestTube, in collaboration with a popular web content-producer Revision3. The network will offer free shows (unlike YouTube’s new experiment in subscription channels) available on platforms including YouTube and Xbox — but not on traditional broadcast television. TestTube is unique in this way: the other 14 Discovery Communications networks, including Oprah’s OWN, Animal Planet, TLC, and Science, are all made for TV broadcast.
The new network has plans for 15 original series, such as Thanks, Disaster; Scam School; and Blow it Up! all of which, admittedly, sound pretty cool. Surely someone will complain that these are just new permutations of Discovery’s old tricks, or that the show Distort is barely different than Discovery’s high speed camera-based program, Time Warp, which aired for about 18 months in 2008 and 2009. But who cares! Discovery has long been a sure bet for compelling programming that feels more educational than, say, watching Ancient Aliens on History. Plus, where else does one go to watch an object explode many times at various speeds?
The $30 million acquisition by Discovery is easy to understand. The 35-person Revision3 has produced content for Discovery’s website in the past, and specializes in web platforms. The name itself, “TestTube,” reflects Discovery’s tradition of quasi-educational programming (MythBusters = educational; Finding Bigfoot, not sure) and maybe, the experimental nature of web programming.
by Carlin Twedt