Tuesday, July 20, 2010

168 Hours, Part 1

We live in an "on demand" world. Because of the internet, everything is available always. Television audiences are no longer confined to the broadcasters' schedule. There is no longer any need for TV channels to offer a full 168 hour lineup. We can minimize overhead and create a viral spread by focusing the input required to produce 168 hours of output per week into a "quality over quantity" output of 2 to 4 hours per week.

Imagine what could be done with the leverage of 42 to 84 times the resources that currently go into an hour of television. If invested in story depth, these resources would create a vast and enthralling landscape of human interaction. Enormous story arcs could be developed and executed with unparalleled scope, much to the delight of the more critical audience members.

Yeah, but...

Of course, you've likely realized that no network fills a full weeks' schedule with original material even now. Network television pads empty time with infomercials, and production gaps with re-runs. Cable television runs and re-runs "marathons" of both popular syndicated shows and their own original programming. All channels resort to such low-budget programming as "reality" shows, studio-based sitcoms, and game shows.

A further challenge to this proposal is the fact that each hour of the week represents 12-15 minutes of commercial time—a significant source of television revenue. By the current media model, reducing the number of leverage points means losing resources to the same degree. While DVD and memorabilia sales account for some additional revenue, their delay and uncertainty make them unreliable and inadequate under the current system.

Digital media releases which appear on iTunes the day after air are a potentially increasing source of revenue for episodes which bear repeating, but such purchases are in competition against "free" web releases a la Hulu. This source of media, of course, allows ads to be embedded (hence the quotations). Both of these distribution channels clearly benefit from the increased quality which more focused leverage would provide.

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