Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cinema Is Dead

..... or so they keep saying. They said it in the fifties when TV became popular. They said it in the eighties when video came around. And they said it in the nineties with DVD and Home Cinema.

But it still seems to be here? And revenue is pretty much growing year on year. And you don't hear too many complaints about audience fragmentation like you do in TV? I suppose some of that is due to the fact that the studios are responsible for some of the TV audience fragmentation. Who's going to watch some ropey old drama on TV when the latest blockbuster can be viewed in the comfort of your own armchair? God bless DVD.

I've posted before about the economics of HW. In 1984 the studios made a 2.2 Billion dollar loss on theatrical releases. Seriously. 2.2 Billion dollar LOSS!!!!! That sounds like a business you don't want to be in. Unless you know they made a 30 BILLION DOLLAR PROFIT !!!!! from DVD and TV sell through. Now it begins to make a little sense. Especially as they have gipped the talent out of their fair share of that pot of gold - but that's another story. See, Studios evolved and built a new business model where they could actually take advantage of the competition.

TV has to make that same leap of evolving if it wants to stay as the market leader in home entertainment. The guys in pony tails will bang on about how evolving means web content and user interfaces and all that crap. Complete red herring. The one and only truth is that if you want people to watch the show, they have to want to watch it. The fact that some fanboy can pose a question to an actor or vote on the colour of the hero's car is meaningless if he is the only fanboy watching. [ Apropos of Will Dixon's excellent post]

In my opinion TV has to cater for those who don't visit show websites. That is their audience. The vast majority of us. And we are a fickle bunch. We know from Ep 1 if a show is crap or worth sticking with. If we like it we'll make a vague committment to sit down next week and watch. If it continues to entertain we'll firm it up a bit and make it required viewing. If it really touches us in whatever way we may possibly buy the box set.

If it doesn't entertain, it is gone. Dead. History. Doesn't matter how many marketing gimmicks you throw our way. We can smell a stinker. You can make a corpse twitch by shoving a few thousand volts through it, but it will never play the piano again .

So what can TV do to compete? Make better programmes. Because by doing so you will be able so sell them internationally, which will give you more money to make better programmes, which will enable you to sell internationally, which will .........well you know where I'm going.

5 comments:

wcdixon said...

Well said sir...and I really believe there is something to this statement of yours:

"In my opinion TV has to cater for those who don't visit show websites. That is their audience. The vast majority of us. And we are a fickle bunch. We know from Ep 1 if a show is crap or worth sticking with. If we like it we'll make a vague committment to sit down next week and watch. If it continues to entertain we'll firm it up a bit and make it required viewing. If it really touches us in whatever way we may possibly buy the box set."

That to me is so much more the truth than trying to appeal to the handful of internet fanboy/girls.

Better programmes yes, with broad appeal, yes?

Lucy said...

"You can make a corpse twitch by shoving a few thousand volts through it, but it will never play the piano again".

Love it.

Jaded and Cynical said...

Hard to argue with those points, Dave.

I'm getting more and more nervous about the shifting economics of the business, though.

Up until this point, while technology has advanced, the revenue streams have kept pace. You're right, while movie studios lose money on theatrical releases, they make it all back, and then some, through their home entertainment divisions.

But there's no law that says revenue has to keep pace with technology.

A couple of weeks ago, rather than spend yet another evening bitching about the rubbish on British television, I downloaded a couple of US shows off the internet.

No charge, no commercials, and if the picture quality was a notch below hi-def, it was still watchable.

So we're already at a point where the viewer can watch almost any show from anywhere in the world, virtually as soon as it's broadcast, and at no cost.

While this is great for those of us who'd rather watch Ari Gold than Vera Duckworth, it does raise hard questions about the future.

Why would a broadcaster spend a fortune developing risky, scripted drama, when it's getting harder and harder to get paid off for that?

Technology could be pushing us towards a world where the only programming that makes commercial sense revolves around things like phone-in competitions and reality freak shows that are out of date as soon as they're aired. Let's face it, we're not a million miles away from that right now.

freebooter said...

All the reality in the world, can't and won't take the place of well told character stories - candy floss is nice, but yer can't live on it.

Mark Cuban - mogul of HDNET - has some interesting stuff to say about TV'S integration of internet and HD output with MASSIVE home screens.

Enjoy the posts Dave. Specialy the sense of 'fuckwits' frustration with the suits. Maybe you should grow a big beard and carry an African fighting stick?

English Dave said...

Some very meaty stuff. Will, totally agree. Broad appeal over every demographic makes hit shows. There is room for minority programming, but that should be made possible by the money generated from the popular shows. TV is in the same place as Movies were 20 years ago. Hits financed experiments. Movies [or rather Studios] went on to eschew experiments. Because that was the model they had to work with. TV is placed to diverge from Studio mentality and achieve and keep that balance. Let's hope they do.

Lucy - Gracias. I read it after I wrote it and it tickled me too!

Jaded - Great points. But there is a law about revenue keeping pace with technology. Copyright. Okay it isn't as policed or enforced as it should be and that is the fault of the content providers. But any contract nowadays identifies copyright as being applicable to any means of electronic transmission both known and unknown. There's a catch all if ever I heard one!

Freebooter, welcome. Absloutely right. Storytelling and listening is in the genetic makeup of the human race. A good story relates on a deep level to our genetic makeup. Reality shows work for a while because we all like to feel we can influence someone's life for the better. We all like a trier. But in the cold light of day, after a while the winners tend to fade into obscurity and the powers that be wheel on the next bunch of sacrificial lambs for our Gladiatorial thumbs up or down.