Blurring the Line: TV and Internet Shows Build Online Communities

Maria D’Antonio

As culture embraces transmedia storytelling, the lines between the media begin to blur. TV stars appear in web series and YouTubers are featured on television. Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of these two media is how they are cooperating rather than competing.

TV Shows are Adapting to the Internet

TV shows, though older, are quickly adapting to the Internet. In an interview on PBS, David Carr, a writer for The New York Times, and Ken Auletta, a writer for The New Yorker, talked about the benefits and costs for these broadcasters.

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Auletta pointed out that the Internet is another way for these shows to generate more revenue. Though Carr brought up the fact that these shows may lose money due to wide availability, he pointed out that broadcasters tend to stay ahead of the viewers by utilizing all available platforms, such as game consoles and the Internet, and get money from retransmission.

Having a show like “Breaking Bad” available on Netflix is not necessarily a bad thing. Netflix still has to pay for it, and viewers watched the television show on the AMC network to avoid falling behind. Searching “Breaking Bad” on Tumblr yields so many references to the show’s finale that the blogs end up spoiling the episode. Because the Internet moves so fast, it encourages loyal viewers to keep up with the show, rather than wait for it to stream on Netflix.

Anyone can make a Show with the Internet

Internet shows, web series, or webisodes are shows made specifically for the Internet. These shows are not simply TV shows that are available on the Internet. For example, “House of Cards,” a Netflix original series, would be classified as a web series, but BBC’s “Doctor Who” would be categorized as a TV show, even though it is available on Netflix.

Like their television counterpart, Internet shows come in a wide variety, ranging from talk show and narrative to educational. Like television, some shows are more popular with a large, supportive fan base, such as “The Mythical Show with Rhett and Link,” which, unlike television, the fans provide instant feedback on the video itself and the creators can respond and adjust the show. For instance, the first episode of “The Mythical Show with Rhett and Link” included a studio audience, but after seeing viewers’ opinions, quickly nixed the audience for the next episodes.

The Internet, itself, is free to all. Anyone can post anything on the Internet, and websites, like YouTube, enable anyone to create a show, because unlike television, a would-be creator of an Internet show does not need to sign on with any channel in order to air their content. This does not mean that the Internet suffers less prestige than television.

Internet shows have their own award system, the Streamy Awards, according to Televisual writer Aymar Christian. Shows like “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” have won awards, such as Best Interactive Program and Best Writing: Comedy, according to the Streamy website.

The Internet is unique in that amateurs can showcase their material using the same platform as professionals, meaning that occasionally, when viewing a well-established show, the audience may see the new show advertised.

The Community

Part of what enables Internet and TV shows to cooperate with one another is the Internet community. Many popular YouTubers have a huge, established community of fans. For instance, the vlogbrothers, who are Hank and John Green, have over 1.5 million subscribers, according to YouTube, and this does not include the spinoff channels the Green brothers have setup, including Crash Course, Mental Floss, and Sci Show.

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The vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green, have created a communities known as the Nerdfighters.

Their followers are called Nerdfighters, and this community enables the vlogbrothers and their related channels to grow. In fact, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” was partly created by Hank, one of the vlogbrothers.

The same goes for regular TV shows. “Doctor Who’s” fan base can be found in all parts of the Internet, including YouTube, Facebook, and Tumblr, the same areas where communities like the Nerdfighters are found. The communities often overlap, creating free advertisement for Internet and TV shows.

The nondiscriminatory nature of these Internet communities provides a model for the shows to follow. “The Mythical Show with Rhett and Link” featured “Wipeout” host Jill Wagner on episode three, while Rhett McLaughlin and Charles “Link” Neal, the creators of the show, have appeared on television talk shows.

These media are not necessarily in competition with each other, but work together like a transmedia narrative to make the most of what each medium has to offer.

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