The announcement of YouTube Screening Room last June represented a serious — if obvious and inevitable — step for professional media: filmmakers no longer rely solely on an oligopoly of distributors for exposure…or do they?

Google, with YouTube, is decidedly intent on distributing professionally-produced media. It plans to create “new business opportunities for filmmakers” and seemingly all other media-makers. The internet hegemon’s increasing presence in entertainment media shows a quickly shifting ecosystem for professional production.

In addition to it’s first feature-length studio film, YouTube has begun to offer television programming from CBS. Meanwhile, Google’s Content Network guarantees views through relevant algorithmic placement on third-party partner websites and already includes a few big-name producers.

The Princess of Nebraska (above) by Wayne Wang, has already received positive reviews and has been seen roughly 180K times –  a fraction of what a film might expect to see from a limited theatrical release, but a striking sign of a shifting media landscape.

When physical distribution is democratized, marketing and access become the new “lines of distribution.”  YouTube’s long-awaited entry into the professional TV space represents emergence of a few countervailing 21st century TV networks: Hulu, Google, and maybe Joost — those with the muscle and exposure to procure the best content.

Eventually, they’ll share a lot of the same content, but they’ll compete on exclusive, tent-pole programming and on the best user-experience, including video quality, discovery and social features.

Traditional TV networks, who will have lost their principal strength (owning the airwaves), will become like studios, devoting already robust programming, marketing, scouting and creative infrastructure to the development of cross-network content.

Food for thought: this is all underpinned by access to bandwidth, and just two telecommunications companies now own the digital spectrum in America.  What does that mean for you and me?

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