Will all due apologies to the Fresh Prince, networks executives just don’t understand. Or, rather, NBC executive just don’t understand. This past week, we learned that negotiations between Apple and NBC broke down because NBC wants to charge $5.00 an episode for television shows sold via iTunes while Apple, understandably, wants to charge less.
Rather than lure consumers in with a partial-season offering of NBC programming, Apple will not sell any NBC shows this fall (the deal was set to end in December anyway). First, a little bit of math. Assuming a 24-episode season, regular viewers will be paying approximately $50 for the season at $1.99; NBC wants those viewers to pay in the neighborhood of $120 for that same programming. You know, that’s a lot of money, especially considering that the cost of production is largely subsidized by commercial advertisers during the first broadcast run.
It’s not easy being an industry leader these days. The moment you hit the top, every time your competition releases a new product, it’s going to “kill” you. The Zune was the iPod killer. Microsoft’s new and improved search was the Google killer. And NBC Universal/News Corp’s new service is, naturally, being touted as the YouTube killer.
All which makes for violent headlines, but the proof, as we all know, is in the audience. It’s not enough to release a new service into the wild and expect it to take the Internets by storm. YouTube didn’t become the go-to online video service simply because it was there. And that is the lesson big media needs to learn.
I think it’s important to review what makes YouTube, well, YouTube. It’s obviously not the only video sharing site out there. Grouper, Revver, and a host of other services allow users to easily upload video. If rumors are to be believed, Revver is the place to go if you’re trying to make a buck off your work. But the zeitgeist — that intangible thing — is with YouTube. Users cross the myriad cultural divides. My mother-in-law finds stuff on YouTube, because YouTube is pretty close to foolproof. It’s designed for the casual user.
Last week, NBC Universal announced that, as part of a cost-cutting measure, that they were going to totally abandon the 8:00pm hour to game shows and reality shows. No more sitcoms or dramas with their pesky and expensive money-wasting frills like “actors” and “scripts.”
In the age of TiVo, YouTube & iTunes it doesn’t really matter when or where a show airs as long as it does air. So the worry here is mostly if this means something like Nobody’s Watching will ever make it to the airwaves. Also, how much longer NBC will be considered a “major” network when the fracking CW ends up carrying more scripted shows just because NBC doesn’t think it can have a sitcom hit at 8:00pm? Bill Cosby must be spinning in his grave.
Anyways, I thought it would be ironic to get some comments from fans of NBC’s low-rated freshman drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip — which has spent a lot of time and energy railing against this exact type of situation — but I had a helluva time finding any. And when I did, I was very much surprised by their reaction to this news. They weren’t at all upset. As a matter of fact, they supported NBC’s move.
When faced with the world of 21st Century Television, different networks do different things to bring audiences to their shows. In the past couple of weeks we’ve learned that FOX will continue to ruin the baseball playoffs; ABC wants to disable the fast-forward button on DVRs and CBS is going to advertise on food.
Lame lame lame. (Actually, I recognize that the FOX/MLB partnership is shrewd from the marketing standpoint; it’s just that I’m a lifelong baseball fan who recoils in horror at being faced with Tim McCarver, those dopey “Sounds of the Game” and sitcom stars in box seats every goddamn October until 2053 or whenever it is.)
So just when you’d figure that NBC would also come up with some kind of dumbass stunt or idea of their own, they actually go in the complete opposite direction and do something very very smart.
I just made a pilot for a big (OK, big-ish) TV Network, and it was rejected for being different from other TV shows. How can I get it picked up by another network?
Hapless in Hollywood
Here’s how to get your rejected pilot picked up by another network, in six easy steps.