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RealTime IT News

Must See Internet TV?

Cenk Uygur feels like he's come full circle.

In 1995, he began producing a cable television show called "The Young Turk," airing it on Public Access Television in Arlington, Va. The show, consisting of satirical political commentary, became a local cult favorite. Uygur teamed with Ben Mankiewicz, and the show, now called "The Young Turks," was picked up by Sirius Radio in 2003 as its first original program.

On Monday, "The Young Turks" moved back to TV -- Internet TV, that is.

The show, broadcast Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST with hosts Uygur, Mankiewicz and Jill Pike, now is available over multiple channels: live on Sirius Left 146; on podcasts via RadioPower.org; and as a live Internet stream from www.theyoungturks.com.

The radio show has around 100,000 listeners, with nearly 50 percent of them accessing it via podcasts. "My hope is that a number of them will adjust their viewing patterns and watch it on the Web," Uygur said. At the same time, offering the Internet TV show could greatly extend the audience.

"Ironically, Sirius is a lot more complicated for the user," Uygur said, "while typing in a Web address is the simplest thing in the world." He added that video streaming technology and broadband connections make Internet broadcasts a viable option.

"We've combined all the positives of TV and radio in one big package, and we get to do it in a way we think makes sense," he said. "The Internet gives you the freedom to do what you actually envisioned, and you get audience feedback immediately." "The Young Turks" Web site offers forums and e-mail feedback.

That doesn't mean the video-over-IP portion of the program is easy to produce. "We had to reinvent the wheel on our own," Uygur said. The team built a special studio that incorporates different technologies for each channel.

They also has to reinvent ad sales. The show is supported by ads on Sirius radio and on traditional radio affiliates that air it; in the near term, Internet viewers also will hear the radio ads. The plan to sell Internet video ads could open up the show to more advertisers, as well as offer existing ones better variety of inventory types.

The problem, Uygur said, is each of these channels measures audiences differently and has a different way of selling ads. "None of the different ad agencies accept the other peoples' version. But we'll make that work," he said. "As one of first people to do this, we'll have to break new ground on a lot of this."

Among the 2006 trends identified by IP communications pundit and entrepreneur Jeff Pulver was TV shows premiering first on the Internet, and then appearing on broadcast, cable or satellite TV. "Look for more TV shows to be become downloadable for viewing on personal communication devices," he wrote in a recent note.

Apple's iTunes store already sells episodes of popular shows such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" for paid download. "America's Top Models" offers Internet-only video segments, while the Net plays home to niche programming the likes of Serenity Dragon: Paintball.

IP-based video content and consumption are proceeding along separate tracks, and at very different paces, according to Phillip Swann, an interactive TV consultant and president and publisher of TVPredictions.com.

On one track is what he called "garage and one-bedroom apartment content," that is, homemade videos that may be long on soul but short on production quality. "It's really raw, but very personal and creative," Swann said. That's a fast-moving track. On the other side, and moving very slowly, is a way to get all that content onto a platform where people can feel comfortable watching it. That platform, he insists, is not the PC screen, but the TV.

"The potential of it is enormous," he said. "Once that second track starts going faster, [so that] you can reach out and take broadband-based content on the TV, that's when that will explode."

Swann said that the video search engines being offered by the likes of AOL, Google, Yahoo and Blinkx could be the portals to discovering and downloading Web-based video to television set-top boxes. "Eventually," he added, "the television itself will have the broadband connection." And that's when the opportunity for paid downloads will explode.

If there were any doubt that Internet TV was about to enter the hyposphere, Monday also saw the launch of the iTVcon Internet TV Conference & Expo 2006. Conference promoter SYS-CON stated, "Now that broadband is available to more than 100 million households worldwide, every corporate Web site and every media company must now provide video content to remain competitive, not to mention live and interactive video webinars and on-demand webcasts."

Uygur said he felt that "The Young Turks" was part of a new era.

"It's a perfect free market," he said. "People will put up whatever they've got, from complete hack amateurs, to complete professionals. And the people will get to choose. Time Warner won't get to choose. That's the beauty of the Internet, and we'll find out soon what people want to watch."