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In Uncategorized on December 5, 2008 at 7:30 pm

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Some thoughts on network television and social media

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2008 at 1:57 pm

This post was inspired by an ABC television network announcement that two of my favorites shows – Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone – are being canceled. A third, Boston Legal, is “bowing out”  this year, reportedly because Producer David E. Kelley could not reach an agreement with ABC on payment.

This cancellation prefect made me think – more and more things are moving onto the web. You can now shop, check out the person your child is dating and make dinner reservations on the web. According to digital inspiration , there are an estimated 156 million websites in existence. That’s one website for every 34 people on earth.
So, why can’t television shows move onto the web? Not as second run shows as the networks do now, but as first run shows? It seems a logical thing to do.
Many functions that used to be done in other ways are now moving on to the Net. Just look at the rise of social media. Two years ago, most people probably thought the expression “social media” meant a party at the local television station.
Now, look at its rise. According its own statistics, Facebook currently has 120 million active users.  It is the most trafficked social media website in the world. YouTube has over 100 million videos uploaded. Twitter had an estimated eight million users. It is safe to say there are many more now. Yes, Pownce has died, but that is just part of the normal weeding out process.
There is a on-line market for television shows. According to The Nielsen TV/Internet Convergence Panel, the heaviest Internet users also watch the most television. The study found that the top fifth of Internet users spend 250 minutes a day watching television, compared to 220 minutes of daily television viewers for those who don’t use the ‘net at all.
The study also found that 50 percent of the Convergence Panel members had viewed online streaming content.
So, the market exists – it is just waiting for somebody to exploit it.
How could it be done? How could a producer make money? Well, look at Major League Baseball. Baseball charges $119.95  for a gift package for an entire season of baseball. Comscore found in July 2007, the average Internet user watched an average of three hours of online video in the month. Remember, that was a summer month when all viewership drops. Major league baseball had 7.6 million unique viewers – one of the lowest totals. Based on the charge for the season that represents $911 million in revenue or enough to pay three or four top pitchers.
 I think I can safely guarantee there are very few television shows grossing $911 million dollars for a season.
Would people migrate from the big screen to the computer screen? Good question. Well, the Nielsen service found Eli Stone had 6.35 million viewers Nov. 18. Since ABC announced the show is going off,several online petitions have sprouted to keep it on. Some people clearly care deeply about the show. 
Let’s assume ABC did something bold and streamed the show online for say $50 for a season. And, let’s assume 20 percent of the television viewers followed the show to online streaming. That would mean gross income of $63.5 million. I think that would more than cover the costs of production and provide a tidy profit.
So why not networks? Come on, give it a shot.