MTV began as a showcase for music videos, but the art form has slowly shifted almost exclusively to the web.  In turn, MTV has turned to the web for scripted series that were once the exclusive domain of television.

This is the clearest example to date of the ways in which the internet is changing the economics of television.

It started with College Humor, whose hit online originals like Hardly Working and Jake and Amir were the perfect pairing for a half-hour MTV series aptly named The College Humor Show.  (and whom you can meet next week during our monthly screening/conversation series, Big Screen Little Screen)

60Frame‘s Private High Musical, which we reviewed here, and Crackle‘s Long Distance Relationship, which our friends at Tubefilter praised here, are both set to jump to MTV’s new scripted bandwagon as part of a new strategy to develop multiple pilots in a sort of ‘throwing of spaghetti against the wall.’ Will the strategy work?

I think so; it’s an acknowledgment of the emerging television paradigm, a leveraging of the advantages of the new world of production and the still strong brand equity of cable networks.  A scripted series with the sensibilities of web television will appeal to MTV’s production cost-sensitivity while bridging much needed gaps with internet properties and leveraging an iconic brand with built-in eyeballs.

“It’s saying, ‘Go prove us the idea’ and seeding it with some money upfront rather than doing a longform deal with every deal point in place,” MTV senior VP series development Liz Gately told The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re moving more toward a ‘proof is in the tape’ model.”

It’s a great way to effectively utilize distinctive but converging video platforms.  If MTV can keep production costs under control, they’re on to something.

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