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If Web broadcasting goes mainstream, you could be a star

The arrival of Apple TV and other products is pushing Internet video onto TV screens.

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"Vendetta Gunn," like most clips on the video-sharing website YouTube, is not exactly a smash hit. The nine-minute video, the first episode of a comedy about crime-fighting subway cops in Boston, was produced on the cheap by three Emerson College students. The number of times it has been viewed so far: 2,809.

But amateur projects like this – which lack the big budgets and technical polish of anything you'd see on ABC or Fox – could one day command a presence on your television screen, right alongside the entertainment giants.

"The Internet is going to be able to beam content to your TV," explains Federico Muchnik, director of the digital filmmaking program at The Center for Digital Imaging Arts in Waltham, Mass. "All of a sudden it's no longer 72 channels, it's 72,000 channels."

In fact, it's already happening. In March, Apple released "Apple TV" a $300 set-top box that allows users to play Internet videos on a wide-screen, high-definition television. Some initial reviews of Apple TV have criticized its grainy video quality and limited compatibility – but the future promises an explosion of online video that will look just as good on your television screen as what you get from your cable box now.

"It's almost hard for me to express in words how exciting it is that Apple TV and [other similar devices] are coming out," says Dina Kaplan, chief operating officer of blip.tv, another popular video-sharing website. "Our goal is to get as many of our shows on as many televisions as possible as quickly as possible."

The 'democratization of television'

Internet experts have dubbed this trend "the democratization of media," in which just about anybody with a $200 video camera can post a homemade video on the Web and potentially get famous. In 2006, recognizing the influence of user-generated media, Time magazine named "You" its Person of the Year. Internet giant Google endorsed the idea with its checkbook, by purchasing YouTube for more than $1.6 billion. Today, the most popular videos online get viewed millions of times.

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