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Looks Like TV, Online

Online video’s newest hope may revolve around an old idea: live broadcasts and programming that airs at set times.

It was an approach popular five or so years ago, with “webisodes” that aired at regularly scheduled times. Now, online appointment viewing is coming back in vogue, led by companies like Major League Gaming.

MLG, which organizes the some of the largest video-game tournaments in the U.S., runs its online shows at prescheduled times. Its offerings include an ESPN-style “highlights” show with key moments from competitive play of games like “Call of Duty” and live coverage of tournaments.

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Still, analysts say TV is unlikely to go anywhere soon. Other online-video producers have scrambled to get their content onto traditional TV. “Drunk History” began as a show on the website Funny or Die and also appears on YouTube. This summer the show moved to Comedy Central. Vice Media, another online media innovator, launched a show on HBO this year.

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“You’re creating scarcity,” says Albert Lai, chief technical officer of Brightcove, a company that builds the web video infrastructure for companies like Viacom. “Because it’s live they’re incentivized to watch it at that time."