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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

CBS and NBC are going to sell reruns of broadcasts for 99 cents through video-on-demand.

This is a small but promising step toward the subscription model of financing TV: yes, I promise to pay $22 to Mutant Enemy Productions when Joss airs Firefly, Season 2. Subscription financing is how books used to be financed -- John Audubon sold his first run of bird books before he printed them, since he couldn't afford to print the books until he had the money in his pocket. Subscription financing finesses the problem of the audience refusing to watch commercials now that they have digital video recorders.

There may always be free broadcast television with commercials, for example in the case of sports and breaking news, where people are disinclined to tape now and watch later. But in the realm of narrative TV, I believe we are moving toward an à la carte pay-per-view model, where you pay for each episode you watch, either when you download it, or long in advance. That, and lots and lots of product placement.

Something's gotta replace those ads...


A few yarns ago I roughly calculated how many people were on line, and how much money could be made if 1% of them were fans, and if I sold my product for only 99 cents a shot. Millions of dollars could be made this way.

Of course, getting the product out on everybody's radar (marketing) would still be a challenge (not to mention creating a kick ass TV show/movie), but I think it's the way of the future too.

By Blogger Jutratest, at 11:20 AM  

I agree that this is a possibility, even a probability, in places like America, the UK, Australia, etc. ie, 1st world countries where people can pay for shows they want to see. In third world countries though where people live on a day-to-day basis, free TV will continue for the indefinite future. In SA of a population of about 40 mil, something like under 2% (I'm thumbsucking here, I don't know the figures, but you get my drift) subscribe to our one and only "cable" channel, which is now over 10 years old.

Also, how do you think this type of funding will work? How will show creators get the info about the proposed show out there? How do they sell their proposed product to their investors? Or do you think it'll only apply to subsequent seasons of popular shows?

Talking about "Firefly" did you see "Serenity"? It's in the top 250 on IMDB, the overall message from the critics is that it's pretty damn good, but it's basically a box office flop...any idea why?

By Blogger African Den, at 12:53 AM  

"...the overall message from the critics is that it's pretty damn good, but it's basically a box office flop...any idea why?"

Serenity may be a box office flop, but that doesn't mean it won't be a financial winner. The movie will probably match on DVD what it did in theaters as well as the fact that the original box set of FIREFLY is flying off the shelf thanks to the movie being released. Yes, that has to be factored into the equation because that was the impetus for Universal to make the movie in the first place - they knew they would absolutely KILL on DVD.

We haven't even counted pay cable, pay-per-view, cable, network and syndication numbers. Then there's international TV, DVD, cable and other revenue streams...

The point is - theatrical releases are becoming one big friggin' advertisement for the other revenue streams. No one here (or anywhere) should be crying for Joss Whedon.

As Alex is saying in his post - the economics of TV and movies is changing. Things are not what they appear to be. Not that they ever were.

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 1:26 AM  

Right on point.

At the beginning of 2005, I had the opportunity to help re-launch Impact! magazine. (In its previous incarnations, Impact! served as a trade mag for the Black radio and retail space; this go-round, the new owners, Shawn and Wayne Bryant, and I decided it would serve a better purpose as a hybrid trade-consumer book for those interested in the Business of Urban Entertainment, including music, TV, film, marketing, advertising, publishing, etc.).

One of the articles in the "premier" ish that garnered the most attention from the least amount of readers was on the growth of "video on demand," be it via traditional television sets, computers or portable media players (e.g. iRiver PMCs, video iPods, Sony PSPs via Memory Stick) or whatever device comes down the pike.

Those who "knew," knew. Everybody else looked at us like we had lost our minds. Although I'm too young to remember, I still think of the "wisdom" behind the anti-cable TV sentiment of the 70s: "Why would anybody pay for TV?"

I agree with you that V.O.D. is the future, if that's to mean that tomorrow, literally, counts. The iPod's success only crystallized what music-lovers have been doing since the advent of cassette tapes and Walkmans in the 80s: customization.

Fast forward twenty years later, and TiVo seemed like it made all the sense in the world.

We're witnessing history, y'all. Let's get those brain cells sparked and create some great stories to tell our grandchildren.

By Blogger carlito, at 12:47 PM  

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