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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

As you know, the biggest sticking point in the current WGA strike is that the studios want to pay writers nothing for re-airing their episodes on the Internet. With commercials. The studios are calling these episodes "promotional," which is a pretty truthy use of the term "promotion."

I find it intriguing that the studios find it more profitable to air shows on the Internet as a second window rather than rerun them in syndication. Why? An internet ad can be linked to a product site, so that if you dig the car/sneaker/perfume they're selling, you can just click and go straight to the car/sneaker/perfume site and learn more, and maybe even order. The Internet audience is younger, richer and more proactive than the TV audience. Crucially, it is not easy to bypass the ads on a streaming episode.

Getting the audience to sit through the ads in the age of the DVR is potentially the Big Question for the future of TV. Is Internet streaming part of the solution?

(It is, at least until someone invents a widget to buffer streaming TV, and the audience gets hold of it. Technically this is trivial to program, though preventing buffering is trivial, if a tad awkward as well. The anti-skipping technology would be a simple bespoke viewing application that used encryption technology. Instead of sending you a Real Media or Windows Media Player doc, they send you an encrypted doc that only the viewer can play -- and the viewer's skip button is disabled until you've viewed the ad. You can still walk away during the ad, but the audience has been getting up for a cold one during commercials since the dawn of TV.)

Internet downloads are an even better solution, since the audience pays for the shows directly -- it's basically DVD without the awkward issue of physical distribution. How many people would rather pay cash for TV, rather than agreeing to watch a commercial, is the key question here. There could be a pay/free model -- download free with ads, with some sort of anti-skipping technology built in; or download for a fee, with no ads. Something for everybody.

No one could have a serious objection to this model. Don't like ads? Buy your way out. Want it free? Sit back and relax.

The duration of the strike is really in the studio's hands. The writers can't afford to back down on this issue, because it's the future of their livelihood.



I find it intriguing that the studios find it more profitable to air shows on the Internet as a second window rather than rerun them in syndication.

They don't, not by a long shot. But the streaming doesn't cut into their syndication potential. Notice they aren't streaming old stuff for free(although you can catch a good deal of NBC stuff on Netflix and the new season of Heroes as it drops).

It is, at least until someone invents a widget to buffer streaming TV, and the audience gets hold of it. Technically this is trivial to program, though preventing buffering is trivial, if a tad awkward as well.

There already are programs that will download a stream, and the networks already have players that don't buffer(much). Try tuning into a 30 rock episode with a slow connection. It's unwatchable.

The only reason people aren't ripping them off of streams is because it's still easier to get them from the broadcast.

By Blogger Whaledawg, at 3:38 PM  

I guess I don't totally understand why a strike is necessary for writers to split such a small portion of a small pot.

I'm an internet marketer. It takes a heckuva lot of success to make good money on the internet. And in order to do that you have to spend alot on servers, development, etc.

I'm not saying this fight isn't worth it. But quitting work for pennies seems so pointless. I'm just not sure it's worth it - yet.

By Blogger Nathania Johnson, at 12:06 AM  

Oh - and by the way - giving away stuff for free on the internet is considered promotional by many people in the industry.

Internet marketers write stuff available for free to attract audiences to the premium content. It's a proven technique.

Again, I'm not opposing you. But this is how I see it as an online marketer from Raleigh, NC.

By Blogger Nathania Johnson, at 12:09 AM  

Nathania, they're not giving it away for free. They're putting commercials on it. They're charging advertisers for it. And there is no "premium content." They're not promoting anything -- they're just airing episodes and getting paid for it, and not paying the people who created the show.

As for pennies -- the pennies add up. DVD sales are in the tens of billions. The difference between .3% and .6% of that is a lot of money.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 6:40 AM  

Alex, you're half right. They are giving it away for free but charging the advertiser. I too have a definite distaste for not paying the creator on the internet portion, but if you were to charge the viewer and define royalties off of that charge (which is in a nutshell what happens now), would the creators be earning much at all on these streams?

By Blogger Ed McNamara, at 12:56 PM  

Right now, not much. Soon, a lot more.

Bear in mind that the whole TV industry is supported on nothing but advertisers. So is the internet. So yeah, it's a completely viable model. And the % that the writers are asking for is derisory.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 1:51 PM  

Agreed. Soon there will be much more, and yes, the model of advertising which runs TV (and the soon, if not already, the internet) is a viable one. But unless I'm mistaken, the current residual formulas are not (directly) tied to the advertising dollars brought in. This, I believe, is the disconnect with streaming and which makes the argument of tying the DVD % to it illogical.

By Blogger Ed McNamara, at 2:10 PM  

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