An increasing number of television viewers are producing their own shows, and the TV industry is frantically trying to figure out how to combine broadcasts, Internet movies and home videos into one package.
Internet video sharing sites like YouTube and Google Video have surged in popularity over the last 12 months, with YouTube now serving 100 million videos a day, and mainstream TV distributors see a need to improve their offering.
French communications equipment maker Alcatel, working with Microsoft, showed at the IBC broadcasting convention in Amsterdam how it has integrated personal video channels into its Internet television system, bedded between the usual national, news and sports TV channels.
Personal TV channels can contain home videos and programmes shared amongst family members or sports buddies.
Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) is a major topic at IBC, because it enables telecoms operators to become TV distributors by sending programmes over their broadband Internet connections. Close to 50 million households are forecast to have IPTV by 2010, according to market research group Gartner.
It now emerges that IPTV systems, which are slowly being introduced in countries around the world, are also well placed to distribute videos that are shared on the Web.
IPTV uses the same Internet technology, said Ed Graczyk, director at Microsoft TV.
Amateur TV producers make better programmes than many people may think, and there is huge interest in their shows, said Andre Mika, director for current programming and production at Time Warner's Internet business AOL.
STORY IS KEY
The story is key, and if you have a good story to tell, people will watch you. Even if the budget is just you and a little camera, Mika said, pointing to the popularity of the new North American television channel Current TV which only broadcasts programmes that were created by viewers.
Current TV is being watched closely by everyone in the industry. The content is very good, he added.
Amateur TV is influencing professional TV production, said Mika who wants his programmes to have the same feel.
There's a tonne of material out there that's free and didn't cost anything to produce. The cheaper my budget gets the better, because the programmes will be raw and edgy.
Established TV distributors like cable and satellite companies are also preparing to mix professional TV with programmes generated by viewers.
UPC, Europe's biggest cable operator owned by Liberty Global, will bring a show starting November where traditional broadcast is mixed with raw, user-generated content, said Ivo Lochtman, vice president for video content.
Our viewers want 80 to 90 percent of their programming to be high quality, mass audience broadcasts. Even the six to 14 year olds want a core of TV programmes, and around it they do all that other stuff like messaging, blogging and video.
It's coming together. They don't bite each other yet, but it will start to overlap, he said.
Satellite broadcaster BSkyB from Britain also recognises the need for highly personal and specialised television programmes, while at the same time the major channels are getting slicker and more expensive with high definition television, which adds 15 percent to the cost of TV shows.
There's no reason the two can't co-exist. We have a lot of people working on it, said Brian Sullivan, director of product strategy and management at BSkyB.