Is there such a thing as indie TV? Yes and no. Producers shoot pilots and series independently, i.e., without a studio or network deal. They might call themselves independent. Marshall Herskovitz likes to position his quarterlife experiment in indie terms. But culturally, no one thinks of television comedy and drama, whether on the networks or the cable channels, in terms of Hollywood vs. indie. This isn't the logic of TV culture.
And yet, in the post-network era, the boutique cable channels are functioning in relation to the networks as art house theaters function in relation to megaplexes. Small audience vs. big audience, class vs. mass, art vs. trash. And I have noticed that in form, some of the shows on HBO go for an indie sensibility, especially Tell Me You Love Me, which could easily work as an upscale film drama in the vein of Friends With Money. TMYLM is low key, stylish in its art direction, not very tightly plotted, and addressed to a sensitive viewer who is expected to appreciate subtle thematic connections among the characters. Its explicit sex scenes fit the "adult" construction of the art house audience too.
Another point of comparison would be in conventions of production and expectations about artistic autonomy. The indie sector of the film biz prides itself on being less commercial and more authentically artistic, allowing the indie auteur room to express him or herself. The fact that cable shows like The Wire give creators more autonomy--by ordering a whole season rather than a pilot and a few episodes and by letting the whole season run rather than waiting for a pick up depending on the ratings--would help position boutique television as independent. This post at the TV writer Kay Reindl's blog Seriocity is a rare instance I have seen in which this comparison is made explicit. She quotes John Slattery saying that the production of Mad Men (which you may recall was my favorite thing of 2007 in any medium) is like an independent film. And Reindl makes clear that she sees working on an AMC show like Mad Men as an alternative to "the system" of network production. It's a "passion project." She even calls it "quirkier." (Reindl doesn't mention that the show is produced by Lionsgate, one of the few powerful indie film/TV companies that is not a mini-major.)
It's such a cliché to say that TV is in another golden age. But there are significant differences between today and yesterday. The biggest one might be that technology enables the fragmentation of the audience into niches, and that some of these are upscale. It's only by being able to appeal to a small, affluent audience that HBO, AMC, and the other outlets pursuing a more "artistic" conception of television have been able to promote the kind of distinction that television now offers, as art house cinema has since the years after WWII.