Online original content is still in it's infancy. Online shows is also a general term that covers short "webisodes" of an ongoing series to whet the appetite of fans while the show is on break, regularly updated YouTube channels, or full episodes of shows exclusive to the online world. Outside of said webisodes, online shows were mostly done by people outside Hollywood creating and editing content on personal devices with little to no true movie or television experience. Until now.
Hollywood is starting to realize that services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and others are a great way to get new content to users in an entirely new format. Shows canceled by their networks, whose small but raid fanbase demanded new content, have seen their cult favorites kept alive by online saviors; see Hulu picking up The Mindy Project for a recent example. Netflix picked up the canceled Arrested Development, and resurrected it for another season. And now Marvel has released the completely new series Daredevil on Netflix, with plans just announced to release a new series every 6 months. But why is this important? Why not just make it another regular series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., or a movie series like Iron Man or Captain America.
The answer is in the format of a show designed for "binge watching". Movies take months or even years to produce, and are generally limited to a roughly 2-hour format. Television shows last for months with scheduled breaks, airing one show a week for an entire season utilizing cliff-hangers or similar devices to increase demand for the next show during each lull. Binge watching gives you the ability to create something in a movie format that extends to several hours worth of content broken up into multiple episodes. This allows for longer, drawn out storylines, that would normally be cut out of a movie. True most television shows are capable of doing that as well, but you run the risk of boring an audience and having them lose interest while the show is not on and not coming back. With binge watching, the wait is up to the user. They create their own schedule, and can watch as much or as little as they want before taking a break and resuming at a later date. Now the user becomes invested, if they hit a lull or storyline they don't find appeasing, simply fast-forward through it and start the next episode or chapter. Miss some detail or bit of dialogue? Rewinding and watching your favorite scenes is completely up to you.
Daredevil hit this format with perfection. The entire series was too long for a single movie, and wouldn't work broken up between 2 or 3 films released weeks, months or years apart. The pacing of the shown was slow and beating, and might have caused casual watchers to bail out of a season had it aired on regular format television. Netflix solved both of these. It gave that big movie film, in a serialized format that viewers could consume at their own pace, thus reducing the drop-out factor. Arrested Development seemed to flourish more in this environment as well. On broadcast tv, the interconnected storylines that much much of the comedy drew from were lost on many viewers forgot the intricate details of episodes aired weeks earlier. Binge watching allowed users to watch close enough that those details were still fresh in their mind, and if not they could easily go back and rewatch those earlier episodes and jump right back into the story where they left off.
Now with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist scheduled to debut at regular intervals, given similar treatments that Daredevil has enjoyed, they can flesh out those characters before they come together The Defenders, the "street level" version of The Avengers. With Daredevil being as successful as it was, production already begun on a second season, and Jessica Jones nearing the end of it's initial production schedule, the only questions that remain are what other studios will follow suit and give us binge worthy shows, and is 6 months too far to wait for each new Marvel series.