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TV Networks Find Clue by Watching YouTube

USA Today reports that the fall TV season is about to begin. The push is on from the broadcast networks to tempt you into watching what they spent the past year filtering for your viewing pleasure.

At a moment when the networks would like nothing more than to make a splash � another 'Lost' or 'Desperate Housewives' � the biggest news in TV is the escalating instances of mutiny by viewers. Watching what the networks set before them is fine. But more and more viewers want to cook as well as dine, which makes the TV story of the year the story of a website: YouTube.

Officially launched last December, this video-sharing service already plays more than 100 million clips per day with more than 65,000 video uploads added to its mammoth inventory. And those rates are skyrocketing. Where does it end? "As more people capture special moments on video," its website declares, "YouTube is empowering them to become the broadcasters of tomorrow."

What's equally important -- and not mentioned in this article -- is that all the major broadcast network television executives repeatedly turned away the producers of Desperate Housewives, before it was eventually piloted by ABC. Why? They were all convinced that the main theme of the show would not be popular. Clearly they were wrong. So, what did mainstream media moguls learn from that experience?

The most persuasive evidence that YouTube is rewriting TV rules emerged last month when 'Nobody's Watching', a sitcom pilot pronounced dead after failing to find a broadcast home, found a warm reception on YouTube (where it logged a half-million viewings). With that sort of cyberspace 'validation', it was resurrected by NBC as a prospect for their 2006-07 broadcast network schedule.

The clueless had apparently found a clue -- watch YouTube. The Independent Film Channel, however, has gone to the next logical step and created the IFC Media Lab. Where is the real innovation taking place? Hint: you won't find the answer on YouTube.

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