A billion viewers.
Bob Lefsetz yet again:
Despite there being over 400 scripted series a year, way too much product, it’s even worse in music. And acts don’t get canceled in music, they keep putting out tracks, vying for attention. The consumer rules, but the consumer has been ignored in music.
So what comes next?
Further consolidation in television. With ultimately a few streaming outlets. And then fewer shows, and fewer payments for those shows, and then, eventually, something will come along to fill TV’s place. Another location to experience story.
[. . .]
After TV becomes consolidated and loses its excitement what follows?
It’s already losing its excitement. Keep up!
Again: Who the hell has the time to sit on their asses and assist in the clogging of their arteries and atropyhing of their muscles by binge-watching a “TV” series?
It doesn’t matter to me that this still seems to be a thing. It’s on its way out already. There’s too damn much, most of it doesn’t have viewer value, and despite good starts, too many things wind up pulling the rug out from under viewers and making them feel as if they’ve been robbed of irreplaceable hours of their life.
I never watched Lost or the American adaptation of Forbrydelsen (The Killing). But those are the two foremost examples of viewers feeling robbed.
That pattern is being repeated.
New series aren’t series. They’re extended trailers for the second “season” of a series. Which will turn out to be another extended trailer for a third.
It’s a con game!
And people are going to wake up to it.
The rebooted Lost in Space was nothing but an extended trailer for a second season. I got snookered by the video promos and just about binge-watched it. I became so disgusted by its ending that I’ll never watch a second series. Even if they digitized and added Jonathan Harris! Because season two will be nothing but an extended trailer for season three!
I’m through with being baited. Tell your story and then get the hell off the stage!
The way the American Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was murdered: It began as a one-week half-hour show event. That proved popular, so they made it a one-hour show, like the British original. That did gangbusters. So then they plastered the schedule with it, with an episode every evening! (I’ll never forget trying to watch it and the premiere of Survivor one night, up against each other.) Millionaire burned out its audience. Not even comeback gimmicks like Super Millionaire with astronomical top prizes helped.
It’s that same “Nothing succeeds like excess” thinking that’s driving the current multi-billion dollar gold rush to video. Having Oscar Wilde as a guiding star is a poor business strategy.
Within two years, tops!, not only the entertainment press but the general press as well with have headlines along the lines of, Where Did The Audience Go?
What happened is what Barry Schwartz warned everybody about. His book was a bestseller. Did anyone throwing billions of dollars at video even read it?
The paradox of choice | Barry Schwartz
If you didn’t bother to watch it all the way through and you’re engaged in the current stampede of original video, you’re going to experience what you missed Schwartz talking bout: Disappointment.
Viewers are going to come to these new series with expectations. As I did with Lost in Space. As I did as I continued to watch Missions (they were very good baiting me up the middle).
And if expectations don’t match delivery — and they hardly ever will — viewers are going to start to catch on to the ruse.
And then they will start doing the math about how much time they wasted and it’ll be game over for the gold rush of series spanning hours and hours and hours.
So what’s next?
It’s already here but no one is paying attention, just as back in the day no one paid attention to this:
Yet look where that took the world!
The “next TV” is microcasting.
This doesn’t mean micro audience. It means making programs that reflect the amount of time that will create the least amount of disappointment in an audience for watching.
I’ve already cited two examples earlier in this blog: The West Side and Adult Wednesday Addams. On the non-fiction side, Vivian Tries.
The West Side is what Jeffrey Katzenberg’s New TV startup thinks is the future: Serials.
This is what happens with serials: Miss an episode and then you have to spend twice the time catching up. Go on, it’s OK to admit how many unwatched episodes of a series are rotting away on your DVR because you missed just one and then let the rest of them accumulate.
Adult Wednesday Addams gets it right. The character is continuing but each episode is a single story. The character, not the situation, is the focus. Each story gets to be a surprise.
With such a format, there’s no need for the “backstory” new viewers have to catch up on even when a series revolves around character, like House, M.D. or Breaking Bad. And if there is, it’s minor. Because how much can be crammed into something so short? And if there’s, let’s say, five prior episodes, that’s a lunch break to catch up, not half a work day of time.
Real, active people are busy. You’re asking for their time. The only ones who seem to have nothing better to do with their lives and time are the current audience of conventional TV: The old, the sick, and the dying. That’s not a growth market.
Microcasting is the growth market for original video. Because it will be possible to get a billion viewers. Everyone carries a cellphone. And that’s the future of watching: The cellphone, during “down” time. Not getting home to use up what otherwise is called time for life to sit and rot away watching something that’s inevitably going to disappoint. (And yes, I know there are people who try to watch current series on their cellphones. They surround me on the ferry. Poor sods!)
Bob Lefsetz likes to use music as a metaphor. Well here it is: Microcasting is rap, hip-hop. It’s what’s going to blow up and shape the future of entertainment. Rap and hip-hop were ignored until someone saw the financial opportunity in it.
It’s only a matter of time before the kind of people who managed music acts — free-wheelers who can see ahead — notice the opportunity that awaits today.
That’s right, people can get in while the mega-talent agencies of Hollywood — CAA, ICM, William Morris, Endeavor, etc — are otherwise busy with the quickly-dying present.
And I know that even after all of these words — which are many more than I am usually willing to do — there will remain doubters and even scoffers.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Have you ever heard of them?
Did the creators really sign their first licensing deal on a napkin?
It’s true. After the comic became a hit, Eastman and Laird were approached by various agents looking to license their creation. In 1986, Surge Licensing president Mark Freedman asked the artists if he could meet with them. Freedman, wearing an expensive suit, arrived in Northampton to find Eastman and Laird wearing shorts and covered in paint, in the process of painting their apartment.
The agent promised to make them millions. A sceptical Eastman and Laird reached for a napkin and drew up a non-exclusive, 30-day contract. Within a month, Freedman had a commitment from Playmates Toys. Action figures, candy, tote bags, bedsheets and a popular cartoon series soon followed. By 1991, Eastman estimates he was grossing $50 million a year.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
That comic book’s first issue had a print run of 3,000 copies.
That’s nothing in terms of YouTube Subscriber counts.
And, final word, let me be clear with emphasis: I mean a billion viewers. Not a billion views.
I Disagree With Bob Lefsetz About Original Video
The Original Video Bubble Keeps Expanding
TimeWarner In Yet Another Massive Merger That Will FAIL
What Could Be Two Huge Changes
As Seen On VT
The Coming Collapse Of Original Video
Will Smith Signed By YouTube
Losted In Space
The End Of TV And Hollywood As We Knew Them
Adult Wednesday Addams: Genius!
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