Thursday, July 22, 2010

168 Hours, Part 2

The New Network Plan

The television network will have to undergo an extreme makeover to survive the information revolution. First, it must forgo static programming. Second, it must trim the fat from its output. Third, it must liquidate and re-commission its assets. Fourth, it must welcome creative fans. Fifth, it must reward evangelism.

By "static programming" I mean the current method of scheduled airings. Before any other steps can be seriously undertaken, a network must dedicate its release of new content to on-demand outlets, especially such web outlets as Hulu and/or the network's own site. This does not exclude the possibility of static programming outlets in the future, but treating on-demand as primary will free the network to perform the second (though far more important) requirement.

Liberated from the necessity to fill a 168 hour schedule, the network can eliminate from its lineup less beneficial shows. In my mind, there are two ways to define the benefits of media content: benefit to the fans and benefit to the network. Whether they realize it or not, fans expect brain food from the media—wiser media benefits the culture of society, equipping it to solve its own problems. Being a business, the network itself craves capital to re-invest, increase value of shares, and pay employees. It also craves recognition and a loyal fanbase—especially one that will hold it accountable to improve.

Shows that do not satisfy these requirements can be sold to another network, sold to another channel owned by the same network, or liquidated entirely. This action will free up assets and capital, both human and material. The resulting resource pool can be drawn upon by creators to subsidize the large up-front effort needed to weave deep, resonating stories.

Only with this depth will the higher aims of culture, loyalty, and evangelism be attained. And only by an unparalleled level of fan-creator interaction and feedback will this resonating depth be created in the first place. Once the groundwork and story introduction are created, the search for truth must be outsourced to the fans. Fans who demonstrate to the creators a profound understanding of the story's heart and soul would be invited to operate as independent consultants. Their job would be to accumulate and filter new ideas through direct interactions with fans and critics.

Finally, to achieve this level of attention to a given story in the first place, the network must reward evangelism. While a dramatic term, perhaps, "evangelism" in marketing is very similar to its humble form in religion. A new follower is inspired by the benefits of the story to such a degree that he desires to share the experience with others. This is the greatest reason to create wise media, but its effects are not everlasting. By the time the evangelist naturally loses his initial excitement, rewards resulting from his work at sharing should begin to arrive.

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