Monday, July 06, 2009

What's The Difference...

Between creating a TV show (or book, or movie, or comic) and putting it online via Bittorrent with advertising in it...

and free network broadcast TV which pays for everything with advertising (and merchandising, DVD sales, international rights sales and so on)?

If they are both based on the idea that the more people who see it (and their demographic) the more valuable the property, then certainly it makes some sort of sense to explore D2I (Direct-to-Internet) production...

Jump into the mosh pit of discussion. I want to hear some voices out there.

1 comment:

Dan said...

It isn't just a question of the more people who see it.

There was a show on cnbc which had like a thousand viewers, but could charge tons for advertisements because it was about extreme luxury goods and advertisers like Bugatti and New York Yacht Club were willing to spend much more per viewer to reach those viewers.

Similarly, Hulu viewers have been shown to be much more receptive to advertising, particularly since there's only one commercial per break and it's repeated. Each ad is worth more.

The more targeted ads can be and the more discretionary income and wild the spending habits of the viewer, plus the more the viewer retains of the ad, the more the ad is worth.

Network TV tends to be very general, with large, general audiences of middle income. You cannot target very much (although daytime TV is great for selling products to old people and housewives and sports is great for selling beer). Cable is far more targetable. The audience for South Park is smaller, but a much more specifically defined group. A show about snowboarding may reach a much smaller audience, but it's a much better bet for Burton to spend their dollars there than on the Super Bowl.

There are also shows in the last few years that have survived because of the habits of their audience. The Office and especially Friday Night Lights probably wouldn't have survived on their ratings in past years, but their audience is extremely well educated, extremely affluent, and buys DVDs. Peep Show in the UK, probably the best sitcom on the air, survives for the same reason (DVD's, BBC is not ad dependent).

Network TV is like public art. Everyone has to like it or people complain and it gets taken down. But on the internet, where it is much, much cheaper to distribute content, you can target a very specific audience and find ways to make money off of them, be it targeted ads, DVD's, merchandise, or subscription.

I think the bittorent model is unlikely to ever be a real contender in this arena. You cannot track the ads or even make sure people are watching them.

What I think you likely will see and, in fact, already are, is cheaper productions, streamed Hulu style, with possible extra features or episodes available by subscription or for individual purchase.

I think the future of episodic video content lies in mostly smaller productions, with machine targeted ads (like Google does with text based content now) or subscriptions or purchases of individual shows. Do you like the office? Pay $4.99 a year for loads of extras, or $29.99 for the extras plus downloads you can put on your iphone. Perhaps current episodes are available with ad support, but if you want back catalogue, you have to subscribe.

There will likely be sites that sift through this content for you and let you find shows you may be interested in more easily. The hard part will be finding the quality in all that's out there, much as the music industry is facing now. Perhaps media makers will make lists of things they like: Here's what Ryan Seacrest is watching, etc.

These may grow into subscription services, like HBO, that provide you with a wide array of viewable options for your monthly fee, but lack the ability to download, except at perhaps a discounted purchase price.