Already, networks are making shows available online, whether on their own sites or through a service such as iTunes. Some are going even further, creating programs exclusively for the Web — a step that could eventually make the Internet a proving ground for television shows. Meanwhile, creative teams outside the television industry are producing their own online series — leading some experts to speculate that Internet companies like AOL could morph into de facto networks as well.
From a viewer’s perspective, all of this obviously means lots of new choices — more shows to watch and more say in when you watch them. But the Web also gives the public something more subtle: creative power. Not only can die-hards discuss their favorite shows on message boards, they can create high-tech tributes online, such as “best of” video montages. Sometimes networks welcome these efforts, but in many cases they take a hard line, cracking down on fan content that violates copyright.