There’s a “metric” out there I wish I knew but can’t seem to find on Google, perhaps because television production companies keep it a secret, but I guess I would call it the “delayed admission” revenue arc of a show.
For example, the first season of the Andy Griffith Show, shot in 1960, can be purchased on Amazon as a 4 disc DVD, for $16.99. A show filmed 52 years ago is still being purchased directly by the public. The first season of the comedy “Friends” (1994), can be purchased for $19.19 on DVD or $26.99 via Video on Demand. The 2008 HBO mini-series “John Adams” can be watched, right now, on Amazon for $19.99.
So my point here is that whether the show is 4 years old or 52 years old — totally apart from whatever it may earn being sold to cable channels for re-runs — a show, like a book, continues to be purchased by consumers long after its introduction. The question is: over its protected royalty life (75 years?) what are reasonable expectations for its earnings?
According to one source, Americans purchased $385 million in internet video on demand (VOD) in 2010. This number is likely to sky-rocket as DVD sales and rental plummet, but according to the Economist, it’s still a fraction of what American consumers spend, buying or renting videos. Even though there appears to have been a 2004 bubble in home entertainment purchasing, according to the Economist, Americans spent $18.5 billion on DVDs, Blu Rays and VODs in 2010. What I don’t know, of course, is the micro side of things, (how much of that was commanded by the 1960 first season of “Andy Griffith.”)
Think about it: if any of you had to guess, how many copies of Friends Season 1 have been sold via DVD? Via VOD? If you owned a piece of Friends, back when no one knew it was going to be Friends, what would your yearly check be?
If some industry insider wants to give me the inside scoop, I’m all ears. We’re courting investors this week. It’s 2012. We want to paint a rosy, but realistic, picture of 2064. I might have a great grandchild or two by then.
Some useful numbers on the free side of things: 183 million Americans watch 34 billion internet videos a month, each of them averaging about 4.3 minutes. Assuming 110 million households in America, that’s about 22 hours a month or 43 minutes of free internet video per household per day. I think Americans watch something like 6.5 hours of television a day, so the “paid/cable/satellite” subscription side of entertainment still seems to be dominant.