Network TV is Dead; Warner’s Going Hulu

Warner Bros. TV President Bruce Rosenblum last week both forecasted the demise of network television and said that a distribution deal between his studio and Hulu was “imminent,” according to Communications Daily.

Rosenblum’s perspective is self-serving, as his studio sells prime-time shows to other networks and co-runs the niche CW network. But he sounded almost like a true new media believer, telling Stanford law students that a “complete disaggregation of the networks” was in the works.
Compared with renting shows through Netflix or selling DVDs, ad-supported or paid online video is the best deal for both studios and customers, he said.

Rosenblum sees a future in which studios spend heavily on marketing to bring consumers directly to their doors (or Hulu’s door, as the case may be). Of course in his vision, established show producers will continue to beat out “new competition from anyone with a ‘video camera and the ability to type ‘YouTube.'”

Although his frank comments are much appreciated, I think there’s at least one part of his vision that’s still too old school. Yes, existing networks will become increasingly irrelevant, but meanwhile new platforms — such as MySpace and Hulu — will emerge. Social networks are coming into their own as a more direct, personal and efficient way to distribute content. These new networks will share more than a common term with the networks of the soon-to-be past.

For background, Hulu told us on February 13 it had not yet signed a deal with Time Warner. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has been pushing forward with making web shows on the cheap through its Studio 2.0 project.