Tag Archives: Television

ABCFamily.com Comes Up with an “Alibi”

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Sometime I wonder if I post things just to come up with a Variety-speak headline.

Anyhow, just watched episode one of “My Alibi” on ABCFamily.com (see below).  This was a pick-up for ABC of an existing show from Take180 which tries to elicit audience participation in the form of cliffhangers with resolutions that can be voted on.

The production value is decent and the casting of a 90210-alum can’t hurt but I am not convinced that this sort of simplistic interaction is going to be the hook for a webseries aimed at teens and tweens (or anyone else, really).  Primarily, these interactions tend to hurt the actual story since so many alternatives must be conceived and, at times, produced, even if they aren’t the most satisfying or dramatic direction, due to fan interferance.

Instead, webseries need to find more innovative and immersive ways to get audiences involved OR create a passive story that is good enough to stand on its own.  “MyAlibi” falls into a bit of an unfortunate gap between these two solutions.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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New York Times Helps Movie Studios Spread Lies and Fear

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New York Times writers By BRIAN STELTER and BRAD STONE (full disclosure: Brad interviewed and quoted me for his article on $200 netbooks and I think he seems like a real nice guy) seem to have been drinking a bit too much of the movie industry’s KoolAid.

In an article in today’s paper they write the following:

But if media companies are winning the battle against illegal video clips, they are losing the battle over illicit copies of full-length TV episodes and films. The Motion Picture Association of America says that illegal downloads and streams are now responsible for about 40 percent of the revenue the industry loses annually as a result of piracy.

The problem here is that this 40% figure is completely mythical and the reporters neither back up this outrageous claim or offer any subtantive basis for it being made.

The truth is that Hollywood revenue was up year-to-year and there is little true corellation between rates of piracy and Hollywood profits.  The concept that every “pirated” viewing is lost revenue is simply absurd.  It is wrong to assume that people who watch something for free would be willing to pay instead if the free version were gone.

I might watch “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” on a pirate stream for a few minutes but I will not pay $12.50 to go see it on a big screen.  If the pirated version isn’t available I just won’t see the movie at all.  However, if it is a great movie I want to see on a big screen I will cough up the coin.

The overall tone of this article makes it seem like this piracy is a massive crimewave instead of a rational response to an industry that refuses to evolve with the times.  There is a reason that the studios are losing this war: they aren’t changing to meet their customer’s needs and so their customers are going elsewhere:

But many industry experts say the practice is becoming much more prevalent. “Streaming has gotten efficient and cheap enough and it gives users more control than downloads do. This is where piracy is headed,” said James L. McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Consumers are under the impression that everything they want to watch should be easily streamable.”

Of course they are under that impression – it’s true.  Where studios and TV networks are losing money is by not finding ways to offer a similar service at a reasonable price.

When they do make the effort, like with Hulu.com, they see great results.  Viewership goes up immediately.

Why they don’t simply release copies to torrent sites with ads embedded is completely beyond my comprehension.  With what they waste each year trying to “fight” piracy, they could develop and distribute a new business model that would make pirating basically obsolete.

Instead, they risk going the way of the music industry and suing their way right out of business.

Meanwhile, I am baffled as to why the New York Times seems to be siding so heavily with “Big Hollywood.”

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Time Warner Cable Losing Subscribers. I’m One of Them.

Lost (Original Television Soundtrack) album cover
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God, I love being part of a trend! Especially when that trend is to dump your over-priced, inflexible and poorly serviced cable TV via Time Warner Cable.

According to CNet:

The cable operator only gained about 49,000 new lines for a total of 34.2 million during the quarter. And basic video subscriptions decreased by 197,000, to 13.1 million. This drop was attributed to customers ending their service, but was also due to the fact that Time Warner Cable sold some properties.

Aside from the obvious reason that paying close to $100/month to watch TV is a tough pill to swallow in this tight economy, the free alternatives just continue to become easier to access.  I dumped my TWC TV service almost two months ago and continue to see everything I want – I just don’t pay through the nose for the privilege.

While I hate to see anyone lose a job due to a business downsizing, I simply can’t root for Time Warner Cable in this particular battle.

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Free Anti-Piracy Advice to NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX et. al.

According to a post on NewTeeVee:

Regardless of how many ads were shown, 90 percent of ABC.com viewers continued to say they’d rather get the show for free than pay to get it without ads.

Why aren’t the TV networks releasing copies of their shows to pirate sites complete with the ads built in?  While I do love my ad-free TV torrents, I tend to watch on Boxee even with the ads since there is simply no wait.  However, I miss being able to download and watch the show on other devices or outside of a wifi hotspot.

I think most people would be perfectly ok with downloading a show with the ads built in.  Sure, one could fast-forward past them but most people don’t bother, especially if the ads are short and varied.

Not only would the networks actually get to show advertisers an ever larger pool of eyeballs but they would be putting the pirates right out of business.

Just thinking aloud…

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Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate Partner on Epix FAIL

Paramount logo during the 1930s
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I have written a fair amount about what I see as the complete obsolescent concept of a “premium movie channel” like HBO or Showtime but that hasn’t stopped Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate from teaming up to launch EPIX, a premium movie channel that I predict will fail faster than Middle East peace negotiations.  According to the NYT:

The channel has engendered its fair share of skepticism in the media world, partly because of questions about consumer demand for another movie channel and because, increasingly, viewers have more options for how to consume video. Cable executives say privately that they have little interest in carrying the channel, which could partly be a negotiating ploy. But it does not appear that they are remotely close to a deal with any of the major cable companies.

I honestly can’t understand the thinking behind this move.  Instead of focusing on how to bring their films to the widest possible audience in the broadest number of formats at the lowest price, these studios are trying to get consumers to pony up more cash for a basically broken system that forces them to watch films on the studio’s terms instead of their own.

Can you say “Epix FAIL”?

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Webseries Viewer Retention is Terrible – Yes, But Why?

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AdAge takes a look at what nearly everyone who has tried to launch a webseries has discovered:

What it [TubeMogul] found is that the series lost 64% of their audiences, on aggregate, from the first to the second episode. The decline becomes less steep from there, but it shows why many series don’t last past the 10th episode; by then there just aren’t many viewers left.

Of course, there are plenty of logical explanations for this syndrome. On obvious one is highlighted at the end of the AdAge post:

Lance Podell, CEO of Next New Networks, said the company categorically doesn’t buy advertising to distribute shows, instead relying on cross-promotion, PR and search optimization to build audiences.

Now, Next New Networks has been doing pretty well, but it would be tough to argue they were doing anything close to TV numbers in terms of consistent viewership.  Without any true advertising it is not hard to understand why so few people have heard of NNN or any of its shows – outside of the tiny circle of New Media webheads like me, of course.

There isn’t a single TV show that could succeed without some traditional marketing and that’s with the built-in kind of reach that TV already provides – not to mention a less “noisy” environment.  Oh, and even with huge marketing budgets many TV shows fail, too.

The idea that one can count on “going viral” and build the kinds of audiences needed to maintain an ongoing series is just plain absurd and ignorant.  That might work, rarely, for a standalone video, but it will never support a series.

There are a slew of other challenges for webseries success beyond marketing.  Only recently have distributors tried out things like releasing a full “season” at once, instead of relying on an audience finding their way back to the series a week or a month after watching a single 2-5 minute video.  This makes a lot of sense, as would a better way to “push” new episodes to interested viewers – such as via an iPhone app…

The one major thing the AdAge article fails to mention is that a vast amjority of new webseries aren’t really that great.   It’s a new form and creators are just getting the combination of experience and support they need to make things that are truly worthy of commitment from a sustained audience.

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Quick Little Boxee Update

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It has now been over a month living cable-free and I am loving it.  Not only am I saving money and watching far less “bad” TV – I define “bad” TV as that stuff you watch when you are just idly flipping through the channels – but I have gotten to really experience Boxee.

While there are now all sorts of ways to watch TV on your computer, I find Boxee continues to be the most comprehensive.  Now, with the addition of the ABC web-content it is just that much better.

I think my favorite part is that I can navigate it almost entirely via my little Apple remote while sitting back in bed.

Even if you are still paying for cable, go download Boxee and get a pretty good taste of the future.  My guess is that you will quickly begin to wonder just why you are still paying for cable.

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