This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Ha ha HA! Mine is an evil die!"
11971 members | you are not logged in | 23 January 2021


January 12 2007

Nobody gets rich, everybody gets paid. Very intriguing article about US networks by John Rogers at his Kung Fu Monkey blog. He puts a different spin on Angel's cancellation and there's a Joss Whedon mention as well.

John Rogers' blog entries have been linked to here before. And those with good memories might remember that he was the show runner for 'Global Frequency'.

Relevant Whedonesque entries.

Always a good blog. Don't know why I never remember to check it out and only read it when I find it linked somewhere.

I'm reminded of what John Rogers said about the Angel cancelation--he was starting up Global Frequency at the time, and when he heard Angel was canceled, he contacted Joss and said, "Sorry about your show, can I have all your writers now?"

[ edited by Telltale on 2007-01-12 11:56 ]
Saw this (thanks to Firefox's 'Live Bookmarks', fabulous feature) but, as usual, I can never tell when something's relevant enough to post. He writes a great blog though and seems an eminently sensible chap.

A lot of that makes sense (the more paranoid segments of the IT community have been seeing the X-box as a push for 'entertainment centre' mind-share for years now) though I for one am really not looking forward to product placement appearing in TV shows after seeing how clumsily it was done on 'Smallville' with Lois's new car last year. It's bad enough in films with the risk of being pulled out of the story if it's too obvious and how are sci-fi/fantasy shows going to do it ? Are we suddenly going to be asked to accept that Sony will still be around in 500 years or on alien worlds ?)

(and the fact that 'Global Frequency' wasn't picked up baffles me to this day, it was an almost perfect pilot IMO)
The "technology is going to make production cheap" argument has been around for a while. Is there any evidence that this is actually happening?
What, Saje, are you trying to say that The Island was a misrepresentation? Mountain Dew, the Xbox, and Adidas aren't going to be rocking the world right on into the next few centuries?

11th Commandment:

Thou shalt not question the supreme knowledge of Michael Bay. After all, he made that touching flagwaving classic Armageddon, which pretty much turned "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" into a soul-stirring international anthem overnight.
LOL, Unplugged Crazy. And don't forget Aerosmith's 'Don't Wanna Miss A Thing' is it on SingStar because it's actually slightly awesome
Is there any evidence that this is actually happening?

I could only think of vids on YouTube but I'm struggling to think of shows that cost less because of cheaper technology.
Reality shows, Simon?
This was a great blog read, very wise and perceptive.
Yeah, I like this blog. Very interesting stuff. And even if I hadn't thought so yet, I was his when I read

Both those ideas are deader than dead Mr. Deady Deaderson, winner of the County Dead All-Dead Dead-off. (ahhh, Blackadder. How I love you so.)

My kinda guy.
Nah Dana, I reckon reality shows cost less because there's less production involved (fewer - note not zero ;) - writers, few if any effects, few if any actors etc.) not necessarily because that production is cheaper.

To some extent I reckon the cost of production is a bit like your income i.e if your wages go up so does your outlay, you just buy dearer/more stuff (presumably up to a certain point). Or mine does anyway ;).

Likewise with production costs, technology keeps costs down because shows can now achieve effects etc. that would have been either impossible or prohibitively expensive previously but I think because the audience constantly demands more and more to be wowed the actual costs stay pretty much the same.

That said, surely the barrier to entry for film-making has been lowered dramatically in the last few years ? Where indie film-makers would previously have to beg/borrow/steal (or, y'know, hire I suppose ;) film cameras then pay for prints, film developing, time in an edit suite etc. today they can buy/hire all the (digital) gear they need for a few thousand dollars and produce comparable results on their Mac (plus the net has reduced costs of small-scale distribution and advertising).

(look at Amber Benson in the 'verse or maybe Shane Meadows as a UK example)

ETA: Don't be silly UPC every last word of 'The Island' was absolutely true. Hardly Michael Bay's fault if reality refuses to play the game ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2007-01-12 15:17 ]
The only example of a technology that I can think of to lower production costs, which Saje already mentioned, is shooting something digitally vs using film. Although, I'm not sure if its gotten to the point where you can get the same quality from digital yet.
Good blog plenty of interesting stuff.

The Whedon brand, that's the reason we are all here isn't it ?

Would be interested in a brand market,

Whedon +2 Buffy comics well received.
Milch -5 Cancellation of Deadwood, doubts regarding new show.

ETA,"what happens when a show is the type to encourage dedicated fans who will buy the boxed set but isn't widely appealing enough to generate ratings and hence stay on the network schedule? " aka the Firefly question, still no answer though.

[ edited by jpr on 2007-01-12 17:43 ]
As Saje pointed out the reality show compared to a drama or
comedy has low, low, on camera talent costs, very low writing
costs, no special effects, no stunts, etc,etc,etc. On the other
side it has a rather small replay ability and virtually no
chance imo for DVD sales. What it really represents is less of
a gamble for the network.

But as to the costs on the technical side I must demur some-
what; physical things may have gotten cheaper but people
have done just the opposite. The only way Indie films make
economical sense is that many of the people who make them are
willing to work for much less. That's actors, cameramen,
writers, makeup, etc.

I can point out one good aspect of the broadcast networks
becoming involved with other cable networks; highly scripted
arc driven shows like Heroes get replayed on cable in the same
week as they were broadcast. That's a big help if you missed
an ep for some reason like I did.

Finally I want to address the comment about the change that
allowed networks to make content a decade or so ago. The
original purpose of the split was to stop the (then) three
networks from controlling both production and distribution.
Cable has made that a moot point. But I don't think it would
have been changed had not it been necessary to save broadcast
TV. Without it the networks were doomed.
A sobering but excellent article.

And JDL-Heroes is a great example. I missed the initial airing, caught up on Sci Fi. I also think when LOST was first introduced the replaying of the pilot several times helped to build an audience.
About the Angel comment; from what I understand, Angel was a solid performer for the WB, with ratings even increasing a bit during the last season. That hardly qualifies Angel as a "doomed" (ie low-rated) show, just kept alive until the WB finally realized that they were marginally enriching a rival. If the ad revenues for Angel were still coming in, why would they care that Fox studios were getting DVD profits? I think it was new management's desperation about the WB's general finances and the desire to shoot for a massive hit of some kind that led to Angel's cancellation.

Something was inevitably doomed alright, but it was the WB.
Although Angel's ratings started to go up at the beginning of the season 5, they very much trended down from the middle to the end.
Was the ratings slip before or after the cancelation was announced, though? Maybe people who were just casual fans with those all powerful Neilsen boxes just jumped ship for something that had a better chance at a future?
Great article and wonderful blog that somehow I have never seen before. Thanks.
Angel ratings: For anybody interested, the ratings are here.

Also, yes, the blog is excellent, and I hadn't seen it before either.

[ edited by gossi on 2007-01-12 23:38 ]
I was thinking the other day that Eddie Brock will probably use the same Sony camera I got for Christmas in Spider-man 3.
Wow, I remember us here on at Whedonesque were following Angel's ratings very closely after each episode.... I don't remember the numbers being this weak. Kinda sobering when you look the facts in the face!
"The 'technology is going to make production cheap' argument has been around for a while. Is there any evidence that this is actually happening?"

I don't think that the access to cheap production has proven to make more outlets available. This was the argument linked to both cable and the internet: more outlets and cheaper technology/production costs would allow greater heterogeny. Well, here we are a decade+ after that brilliant argument was made by Big Media and their Capitol Hill pals in order to pass the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (a rather nefarious piece of legislation), and what we've seen in both arenas is the swooping up of small companies by the same six media conglomerates. The internet offered the promise of variety; instead, any site that becomes remotely popular is subsumed by a mega-conglomerate (see My Space and News Corp). Arguably, there is boundless space for information, but the telecommunications companies are trying to squelch this. I cannot for a moment agree that the market is somehow freer and more open because there are more outlets. Control is now in fewer hands than it once was a decade ago in nearly every medium.
About the quality of digital: regular film (35mm) has a resolution of something like 3000 by 4000 pixels if you were to put it in digital terms, whereas the best HD technology out there is barely breaking the 2000 vertical resolution mark (these numbers change so fast though I could be off by a bit). And besides, TV itself is only 480 lines vertically, my computer screen is only 900 or so lines vertically, and HDTVs are 1080 vertical resolution at best, so really the only time that the lower resolution in digital filming comes out is in movie theaters, when you see the picture on that huge projection screen. At that point, yeah, you're going to notice the difference between high-quality 35mm and, say something filmed on DVC or even the lower-end HD formats.

In other words, for the TV and internet brodcasting purposes, digital is waaaay more cost-effective. Cameras that can record in HD can be gotten as cheaply as $3,000 or $4,000, although a good quality lens or three is gonna set you back quite a bit more.

Also, on the same subject of technology lowering production costs: editing software has gotten much cheaper. Scrubs if I'm not mistaken is cut on Final Cut Pro, which any fool with a Mac can get (I think the show is later taken to an online studio afterwards though, so those are still expensive). But still, you can cut together 90% of your stuff with Final Cut and no one would be able to tell.

The real impact of this digital wave is the ease of making a quality product. With the right scripts (read: low on special effects), a decent HD camera and lens, a Mac and Final Cut, you can set up a freakin' studio. Sure, it'll be a shabby studio, but the final product will look awesome, and if the writing's good...
Wow, I remember us here on at Whedonesque were following Angel's ratings very closely after each episode.... I don't remember the numbers being this weak. Kinda sobering when you look the facts in the face!

Not really, especially for the WB. Maybe you're confusing the ratings numbers with the number of millions of viewers. To put it in perspective, last night's NEW episode of Smallville got households: 2.9/5, #T13; adults 18-49: 2.0, #12, according to Futon Critic.

From that Angel ratings link, here's a comparison between Season Five's ratings for each new episode with the Season Four episodes. I've bolded each S5 episode that got better ratings than its S4 equivalent and italicized those that didn't:

5x01: 3.4 -- 4x01: 2.8
5x02: 3.6 -- 4x02: 2.5
5x03: 3.1 -- 4x03: 2.8
5x04: 3.1 -- 4x04: 2.6
5x05: 3.0 -- 4x05: 2.2
5x06: 2.8 -- 4x06: 2.4
5x07: 3.1 -- 4x07: 2.6
5x08: 2.7 -- 4x08: 2.6
5x09: 2.5 -- 4x09: 2.3
5x10: 2.3 -- 4x10: 2.2
5x11: 3.0 -- 4x11: 2.4
5x12: 2.7 -- 4x12: 2.3
5x13: 2.4 -- 4x13: 2.3
**Angel was cancelled between these two S5 episodes, February 13, 2004**
5x14: 2.8 -- 4x14: 2.4
5x15: 2.6 -- 4x15: 2.4
5x16: 2.5 -- 4x16: 2.2

5x17: 2.2 -- 4x17: 2.3
5x18: 2.5 -- 4x18: 2.6

5x19: 2.7 -- 4x19: 2.6
5x20: 2.8 -- 4x20: 2.5
5x21: 2.7 -- 4x21: 2.6
5x22: 3.3 -- 4x22: 2.6

I know some people like to say that Angel was cancelled because the Season 5 ratings fell to Season 4 levels, but that simply isn't true. The only two episodes that got worse ratings happened AFTER it was cancelled. Sure, it took its yearly downturn mid-season, but there are very few drama shows that don't, for one reason or another, including all seasons of Buffy. Also, that's when American Idol started up on the rival Fox network, which took ratings away from Smallville as well.

Many have speculated that AtS's cancellation was the WB's attempt to punish Fox studios for taking Buffy away and giving it to the higher-bidder UPN. Even David Boreanaz has gone on record as thinking that the WB had made the decision for S5 to be AtS's last well before the season started.
Wonderful topic, Simon. You certainly can stir things up.

I seem to recall that Angel's ratings went up 23% in the fifth season? And that's all I will say on that subject, I've already said enough.

Back to topic, my eyesight isn't the best, but I can't really spot a difference between film and digital. In fact, digital appears a bit cleaner. Again, it could be me.
Angel was definitely up on season 4 - you can see it from the ratings above. I do, however, think the blog author does bring some business insight in things, though -- I've always thought there was more going on that we, and probably the creative people who worked on the show -- knew about.
Very enlightening and interesting blog, I agree.

I've always thought there was more going on that we, and probably the creative people who worked on the show -- knew about.

You said it. And not just about Angel.

I read and googled and linked and linked and googled and... the next thing I knew I was reading about the BSG webisode conflict and then "Hollywood Accounting" on Wikipedia and then JMS's own words about how even though B5 (which I've wanted to purchase on DVD for some time) grossed over 1BillionUS -- $500,000.00 from US DVD sales alone, and was profitable every year it was aired -- JMS isn't making any money from it because studio suits say it hasn't made a profit. Oh my. Fascinating stuff, thanks so much for sending me off in that direction, Simon. I knew they were greedy but wow. Makes me want to do things not endorsed by this site. ;)

And that has nothing to do with the Angel discussion going on but I feel like the last hour has been one of the most informative I've ever had online so yeah, great link!

But um, yeah, I'm confident viewership of Angel went up during S5. I didn't watch much during Season 4 but I watched almost all of Season 5.
And I wondered why I gave up coffee.
Our computer and communications technology is crap.

For example, my mobile phone occasionally has dropouts, my computer sometimes seizes up for no reason and there is a snarling mess of satellite, wireless, cable and broadband avenues for data to enter our various unreliable devices. Rickety, primitive crap.

I wont think we have finally arrived in the future until my computer, phone, innertube access, television, record collection, car keys, radio, alarm clock, video player and game machine is included inside the casing of something as useful and unremarkable as a pocketknife. A pocketknife which I can take along in my flying car. Because you gotta have flying cars...
Furthermore, the 'nobody gets rich but everybody gets paid' model sounds like it would be great for people who want to make a living telling stories to an audience.
I could only think of vids on YouTube but I'm struggling to think of shows that cost less because of cheaper technology.

Not a television show, but how about Star Wreck and the like. In Finland the DVD made it into actual shops for retail, even though the movie is downloadable for free. And it's a total fan effort, too. Certainly not possible without cheaper technology.

ETA: Not just in Finland, apparently: To quote from the site:

The barrier between the film industry and the Internet is crumbling down, piece by piece. Energia Productions, the crew behind the 2005 release Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, together with Universal Pictures have struck a groundbreaking distribution deal with a title that is legally and lawfully downloadable online.

[ edited by Karenina on 2007-01-13 19:47 ]
Wouldestous, IMO the headline "nobody gets rich but everybody gets paid" is one of the more questionable statements this blogger makes, since the internet as a distribution tool still ensures that the most well known brands gets the lions share of the attention and revenue.
The capability of the internet to enable the speedy switch of attention from one brand to the next, could make it a future of the winner takes it all for the next 15 minutes then the next winner emerges etc. etc.

In a very Darwinian way everybody can try to put something out there but only those that hits the winner circle in the form of audience response and quality in some form are going to get any form of payoff.
The rest do well to heed the old recommendation to all aspiring artists, 'dont quit your day job'.

This thread has been closed for new comments.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.

joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home