The site is redefining how younger viewers watch television. In a December survey of 1,800 visitors, Sidereel found that 78 percent watched more than five hours of TV online per week.
Serialized viewing online is transforming the landscape of television production and consumption. It has exposed old series to a new generation and is emerging as an inexpensive production home .
No longer do college students and young professionals sync their schedules with network prime-time lineups. NBC’s “30 Rock” is broadcast on TV at 10 p.m. Thursdays, but for many, the show is after their last class on Fridays at 2 p.m. on Hulu.
As the students enter the workforce, casual viewing may become the cultural norm, breaking down television communities into smaller, more independent niches.
Users love Sidereel’s ability to “track” their shows: They receive updates when episodes become available for viewing. “You follow a show like you follow a person on Twitter,” says Sidereel CEO Roman Arzhintar.
The site is a gateway to a vast array of content, referring viewers to authenticated sources for the episodes, often Hulu, iTunes and Amazon.com. But users post unauthenticated sources, something difficult to police, says Arzhintar.
Eli Susser, a senior at American University, says another popular Web site with his peers is Megavideo, a video browsing section of the Hong Kong-based site Megaupload. When accused of copyright breaches, site officials say Megaupload “is a so-called ‘cyberlocker’ and allows its users to conveniently store and transmit any kind of data from anywhere, to anywhere,” and that some people use it legitimately and some illegitimately.
According to the Nielsen Co., viewers watched two more hours of television per month in the first quarter of 2010 than they did in same period in 2009. In the first quarter of 2010, the average time spent simultaneously using Internet and television in the home was 3 hours 41 minutes per month, up nearly 10 percent percent from a year earlier.
“They might be using [the Internet] to research or comment on what’s on the TV screen,” said Nielsen spokesman Gary Holmes.
Bob Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, has noticed a shift in the lifestyle of the young viewer since he started teaching in 1981. Back then, he noted, kids were called “couch potatoes” and “were made fun of for . . . watching too much instead of [completing] their homework.”
Now they can adjust their viewing to their schedules — presumably their homework schedules.