History of Web TV

1994 to 2004

In April 1995, Rox, a small public access program from Bloomington, Indiana, became the first series distributed via the web, with an episode titled “Global Village Idiots”.

Later the same year, New York advertising creative Scott Zakarin persuaded his employers Fattal and Collins to finance an online television drama along the lines of the contemporary television drama Melrose Place. The Spot became the first episodic fiction website, the first web soap opera.

In January 1999, Showtime licensed the animated sci-fi web series WhirlGirl, making it the first independently produced web series licensed by a national television network. A month later, the series, created by David B. Williams and produced by his Visionary Media studio, premiered on Showtime in a first-ever simultaneous web/telecast. The WhirlGirl character went on to appear occasionally on Showtime, hosting a “Lethal Ladies” programming block, for example, but spent most of her time online, appearing in 100 webisodes.

In 1999, Santa Monica based Television Internet premiered the eight-minute weekly series Muscle Beach. It was a sitcom, news and fitness program in one, viewable for free with the just introduced Windows Media Player. The series lasted three seasons.

In 2004 Greek internet television (with name Tvonline) created by Film Director Angelos Diamantoulakis, is the first web TV in the world with full program and only web productions. Was built in 2004 and it had 1.500.000 viewers per day.

Mid 2000s to Present

The mid 2000s were the beginning of television programs becoming available via the Internet. ITunes began offering select television programs and series in 2005, available for download after direct payment. The video-sharing site YouTube also launched in 2005 allowing users to share illegally posted television programs. A few years later television networks and other independent services began creating sites where shows and programs could be streamed online. Amazon Video began in the United States as Amazon Unbox in 2006, but did not launch worldwide until 2016. Netflix, a website originally created for DVD rentals and sales began providing streaming content in 2007. In 2008 Hulu, owned by NBC and Fox, was launched, followed by tv.com in 2009 and owned by CBS. Digital media players also began to become available to the public during this time. The first generation Apple TV was released in 2007 and in 2008 the first generation Roku streaming device was announced. Amazon’s version of a digital media player, Amazon Fire TV, was not offered to the public until 2014. These digital media players have continued to be updated and new generations released. Access to television programming has evolved from computer and television access, to also include mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. Apps for mobile devices started to become available via app stores in 2008. These mobile apps allow users to view content on mobile devices that support the apps. In 2017 YouTube launched YouTube TV, a streaming service that allows users to watch live television programs from popular cable or network channels, and record shows to stream anywhere, anytime. After 2010 traditional cable and satellite television providers began to offer services such as Sling TV, owned by Dish Network, which was unveiled in January 2015. DirecTV, another satellite television provider launched their own streaming service, DirecTV Now, in 2016. Smart TVs took over the television market after 2010. As of 2015 smart TVs are the only type of middle to high-end television being produced. As of 2017, 28% of US adults site streaming services as their main means for watching television, and 61% of those ages 18 to 29 site it as their main method. As of 2018, Netflix is the world’s largest streaming TV network and also the world’s largest Internet media and entertainment company with 117 million paid subscribers, and by revenue and market cap.

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