Starting Monday morning, owners of Roku devices will have access to a new channel store that increases the number of content providers from three--Netflix, Amazon, and Major League Baseball Advanced Media--to 13. Among the most prominent of the ten new "channels" are Blip.TV and TWiT.TV, two networks that were previously online-only. All of a sudden, low-production shows like Blip's sit-com "Break a Leg" will be available on big screen TVs, thanks to the device and its expanded offerings. It's a great opportunity for the networds to recruit new fans, but it's also a bit risky. People who haven't heard of Blip or TWiT will be expecting high production value "TV shows." Will the online content deliver?
The good news is that it doesn't cost as much to produce a professional-looking show as it used to. Today, amateurs can shoot their home movies on HD camcorders for less than $200. Still, TWiT's Leo Laporte says they're in the process of improving production value on This Week in Technology, his filmed radio show, in preparation for the TV cross over. They've added editing staff, jazzed up the show opener, and plan to expand into a new studio next spring. For Laporte, it's a return of sorts. TWiT started on the now-defunct cable channel TechTV in the late 1990s. When TechTV merged with the G4 channel in 2004, TWiT moved to the Web where production and distribution costs were considerably lower.
Like Blip, TWiT has built up a large online viewership, but both networks say they're ready to expand now that Roku and similar technologies have made it easy to showcase online content on TVs. "We want to be on all the platforms," says Laporte. "We're at 480 pixels now, so probably not up to HD quality quite yet, but we will be over time." Blip curates content rather than create it, but Eric Mortensen, Blip's content director, says they've made an effort to put together a television-worthy collection of programs for the new Roku channel. The question now is how many viewers will tune in.