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November 02 2005

TV You'll Want To Pay For. Could Firefly have been saved by on demand TV? The article makes for an interesting premise.

No no no...I hope someone ends this before it even gets a chance to start. I hate that we lose so many good shows every year, but it happens and we move on. Something like this would make TV almost obsolete, wouldn't it? Also, some shows would be unavailable to people who didn't want to pay for them...unless they are bootlegged which will happen, thus fewer and fewer people will pay for it when they can get it for free...then, the show will get cancelled, because no one is giving them money to watch it. Stupid worked for music, television is a VERY different ballgame.
Well I think the article makes some good points. One point is that the television medium is going to change, maybe not anytime soon- but it will. The fact that axed tv shows get sold on dvd by the truckloads means that tv audiences are craving something outside the crap, outside the commercials- but they still want some tv.

And as far as saying it worked for music- it's not as if it was a smooth transition for music, and it's not as if the transition is over. Despite the existance of itunes and the legalized napster- people still buy cds, (including me) people still watch music video channels, and people still listen to the radio.

Technology may come fast but people are *slow*. Any changes to tv have to come with time.
The article discusses two different models of T.V. on demand; one where a download is supplementary to the broadcast, and may offer extras, and one where a show is online only and paid for by subscription. I agree that trying to launch something entirely new by an unknown creator with the second model would probably be dicey. But either model might have saved Firefly and Angel. I think most of Angel's millions of viewers would have subscribed to an online version of season 6 if the WB didn't want to air it anymore, or the WB might have had to think harder if fans were pouring money directly in for downloads. A second season of Firefly might have happened by the second model, or, like the author said, Firefly fans might have saved the broadcast version with their wallets.
This is probably something that will happen as soon as some copy protection mechanism can be put in place that cuts down on bootlegging. No technical system is going to be perfect but there is also a good chance that fans of shows like ours are going to realise that bootlegging would be against their interests and it would become socially unacceptable in fan circles.

If it can be made to work it is probably in our interests. The present model supports shows that a lot of people like. It doesn't support shows that a smaller number of people love. It also doesn't support fans outside the US who may end up seeing a show like Angel being broadcast at 1:30 am two years after the series was made. I don't think Fox made much money from that either, so a new model might be attractive to them in overseas markets.
As long as the model can stay away from securities regulation (for raising funds in advance of production), broadcast regulation (to limit distribution to particular countries), and pre-existing distribution obligations (again to avoid redistribution problems), then the model just might work.

It might be possible for a production studio with nothing to lose by annoying conventional distribution channels, and a pure subscription model could get away with.

The biggest problem I see is staying away from broadcast regulation. As soon as the content falls under those regulations you have to arrange it country by country.

Food for thought though.
Is downloading a tv episode or movie as easy as downloading music? When I download an MP3, it's as simple as copying the file onto CD to play on my stereo or just play it on my computer with very little effort. Do you just copy the downloaded video file to DVD and it will play as is or are there steps you have to take first to make it playable? Ease of use is going to be a big issue if this is going to appeal to a mass audience.
In a way this is already being done to some movies that come out on DVD, through Movielink. You pay a rental fee download the movie you have it for 30 days but only a 24 hour once you start watching it. So it only seems appropriate that they would apply something similar to this to a TV show model.
"This is probably something that will happen as soon as some copy protection mechanism can be put in place that cuts down on bootlegging. "

How about the DRM License?
I wouldn't do this option. Two dollars an episode seems very high to me when you can buy a dvd set for about the same money and then be able to watch it over and over. I'd much rather have a "direct to dvd" option. A show like Firefly which took off with the dvd sales would be a great show to try that with.
I think it was Bill Gates that said a few months ago that it doesn't matter whether Blu Ray or Hd DVD wins out in the end because the next big media format isn't hard media, its online.
I think this is a great option and one that doesn't exclude "direct to DVD". I donít want to own every TV show I enjoy watching (with the obvious exception of anything Joss Whedon does), so to be able to catch up on missed episodes during the current season and at my convenience would be terrific and - for me - worth the $2 price tag.
*deleted double post*

[ edited by April on 2005-11-03 04:04 ]
My compromise: I'd prefer direct to dvd and online viewing which I suppose would include embedded advertising. I just don't take time to download much or even really use my computer in that capicity nor do I have a DVR. DVD is the way to go for me. At the same time, I see more and more tvs that function as computers also, so the downloadable option makes sense for what will likely be a very common option in the future. It will take some of us years to catch up on all the latest gadgets and technology.
The problem with direct-to-DVD is that you'd have to buy a whole show sight unseen -- and that'd be $40+ right then. That model works best with movies, where the financial risk for the consumer is much lesser.

HBO and the other premium cable channels are doing this pay-for TV on a looser basis; they deliberately try to program shows a small base of people will love rather than like (need to see rather than want to see) and that'll garner critical buzz. You pay $15 a month, or whatever, and get The Sopranos as it airs, rather than a year and a half later on DVD. They come out with a few, carefully crafted quality shows a year, and it pays off. They rarely have to cancel anything, and sometimes patience pays off -- not with Carnavale (which ran 2 seasons before cancellation) but Entourage had a mediocre first season, and an entertaining & much improved second. The pay for TV model does work.

The only problem with downloadable TV is that it'd be impossible for people, like me, on dial-up. I'd have no problem with pay for Joss TV.
I wouldn't mind the $2 fee if it was something that you were allowed to keep. The way RavenU described it is once you view it there is a specific time period once you start watching it and it's gone. And I would only be okay with the $2 fee if it was a franchise I knew and loved. If every show I and my family watch was only available this way I would quickly run out of money if I had to pay $2 for every episode of every show a family of four likes to watch.

And to sell a direct to dvd concept, networks could show a small mini-series of the show to give people an idea of what it is about and then if they like what they see they can buy it. Not quite the same thing, but NBC showed the mini-series of BSG to promote the series starting for the Sci-fi channel which is how I got interested.

And I also have dial-up with no way of upgrading so unless everyone in the country will eventually have high speed access I don't see this being something that will be the next big thing. My town has been trying to get high speed for years and we are just too small for any companies that do it to find it worth their trouble.

What I could see as working would be something similar to the premium stations like HBO and Showtime where you subscribe and pay a monthly fee and can download all the shows that a studio is offering. Kind of like what Netflix does but with tv shows. I just think if every episode a person watched came with a $2 fee to be able to see it that would end up being quite expensive for the average family.

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