Say what you will about Glenn Beck but he is paving the way for a lot of other shows to jump to Internet TV. Think of it this way: the music industry was flipped on it’s ass because we had to buy entire albums or CD’s when we really only wanted 1-2 tracks. As a consumer, buying my media this way is ludicrous, I only want to pay for what I want to watch. Today the cable operators drive money through advertising and subscriber fees. Of that, maybe 40% gets back to the content creators. See the parallels with the music industry here?
This morning I re-read the 9/12 through 9/18 edition of Bloomberg Businessweek’s article about Glenn Beck Bets Big on GBTV. One of the major challenges is filling out the content space with quality programming. That’s not cheap and can run about $25k per episode for 1970’s programming. $25,000 for reruns. How much of that goes back to the people that created or acted in the show? Probably very little. But there’s actually a cheaper and more effective way to go about this. The intent is to accomplish two things here: 1) Fill out the day with more programming 2) Make that programming unique and interesting enough to attract more viewers.
Who creates unique and interesting content? High school students, college students and indie studios. Usually underfunded and fighting for space on YouTube, Vimeo or Ustream, hoping to go viral or at least gain some notoriety. There’s definitely unique story lines, things we haven’t seen before on cable TV because the studios just won’t take a flyer on an unproven producer or writer. The costs are just too high for a studio to do that. But the economics of Internet TV are different, you don’t have to pay the network, studio, local stations and all the other people in between the story and the viewer.
So here’s the plan… Create a competition that awards 10 shows $25,000 each in financing. That cash allows the creators to really begin to produce their story lines. Give them enough funding to add actors, stunt people, creatives, writers, special effects, whatever is needed to really produce what most people consider a TV quality experience. How to pick the top 10? That’s a little tougher but should attract an audience (aka, subscribers). First, how much programming needs to be filled out? Of 24 hours, 6 are dedicated to GBTV. The most anyone can reasonably shoot, edit, and produce is probably 30 minutes a week if they’re going to class or have day jobs. At 30 minutes each you need 36 programs per day, 252 programs per week. Contract with 252 creators that over a 3 month period they will produce one 30 minute program each week for 12 weeks with zero dollars in funding. If they miss the production schedule they get dropped from the competition. At the end of the three months the top 10 shows, based on consumer votes, get $25,000 to re-shoot, re-edit and re-publish their shows and to really tell a more in-depth and complete season. Do the same thing for the next three months, and the next. In a year you’ve got 40 shows and you did it for $1,000,000.
Think it’s a crazy idea? The dry run for this has already happened, it’s Kiefer Sutherland’s “The Confession” which ran on HULU for 10 episodes. It was well produced, had a great story and two great actors. And it was never seen on cable TV. That’s where Internet TV has to go in order to attract a mass audience. Which it can do, we just need to foster it along. So in the end, I pay for Glenn Beck but I a whole lot of new programs to watch. Oh, and there’s yet another reality show wrapped up in all of this which seems to attract a lot of viewers still.