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The Cable Game, Like Everything Else, Is Becoming The Net Game

Written By mista sense on Sunday, April 13, 2008 | 4:33 PM

The Masters Golf Tournament, just won by Trevor Immelman, has long been a TV classic, a network staple. But check out
the website. (That's a screen-grab above.) Masters.org is a feast of video and information; one really could absorb much of the tournament, just from the Internet, without ever turning on a TV.

In the words of prophesy of Harrison Hoffman, writing for the cool website Webware.com:

Over time, I think that it is safe to assume that we will see complete coverage of the tournament online, since it has been steadily adding streams since the service debuted. Rounding out the online offering is a nice slide-out, customizable leaderboard, with live stats.

I really have to applaud The Masters on this Web offering. This sort of online content is very unexpected from an organization like Augusta National, which is notorious for the control that it demands over live TV broadcasts of the tournament.

And it's toward full online utility that's where the rest of television is headed, too, according the AP's Ryan Nakashima, author of an insightful piece about the new TV-net synthesis. Describing the way that CBS rolled out a new sitcom, "Big Bang Theory," Nakashima explains:

The show, about two geeky physicists and their beautiful female neighbor, got 90,000 views on CBS.com and other Web sites over a week, followed by a better-than-expected 9.5 million for the Sept. 24 on-air premiere.

"The thought was purely to try to find new eyeballs in a medium that generally appeals to younger demographics, and then drive them to put butts in seats to watch on their beautiful plasma-screen TV when the series takes off," said Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive. "It was fairly radical, and we're happy with how it came out."

As an aside, one wonders what would have happened if only CBS had been as radical in reinventing its "Evening News" show with Katie Couric. Oh well.

Nakashima continues:

Looking to tap new revenue through online ads, attract new viewers and keep loyal fans, broadcast networks are making bigger, riskier bets on Internet delivery of their shows. The challenge is to grow viewership online without cannibalizing traditional ratings and DVD sales while making more money on programming seen on the Web.

The cable networks have been getting better about putting their video online, and I have further noticed, for example, that Fox News content is turning up on Hulu.com. So it's all Converging together.

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