Buying Directly: It could change everything
What we are doing at Courage, New Hampshire is not really being done anywhere else.
Conventional industry people get a funny look on their face when you tell them you’re doing a television show “on spec.” Some of them look as though they wish they had a chalk board, so they could diagram how it’s done: find broadcast partner, study what they do, pitch idea, find name talent, locate investors, produce pilot, wait to see if that sells enough lip gloss to “Twilight” fans and their moms. If it all works out, maybe your story will be on the air for a few seasons.
For a creative industry, there really is a lot of conventional, cowardly thinking out there.
Last year, the Huffington Post clucked that we were going “straight to DVD.”
Well, that was last year and things are changing. Some of the people who didn’t return phone calls are now calling us. Why? Because we didn’t keep our product off the market. We took it to you first, and you started telling your friends. You even helped us fund each episode, by purchasing benefits ahead of time.
The way it works now, for most people, is that they pay about $85 to $100 a month for their cable subscription. For that, they really do get a heck of a lot of programming. Tons of it. But most of it they just don’t want. Some of the channels aggregate old stuff they didn’t even like the first time they saw it. It’s really a quantity over a quality purchase. It’s a big mess of programming conceived by people who dream of achieving an audience of 25 million people every Thursday night.
Why do they dream of 25 million people in their audience? Because they have a lot of stuff to pay for: middle managers, sales offices, name stars. Some of them even have outdated attachments to inefficient and expensive means of production. They have BIG organizations to feed, and so they need a big audience, and the more people you try to please, ultimately, the more boring your show really is. The result is 500 channels of really boring stuff. It might be sexy and well produced and wonderfully lit and there may be a few good things here and there, but it’s a perfect representation of an ancient truth: you can’t please all the people all the time.
Enter the internet and the ability to watch any show you want anytime you want. Enter fluid, ubiquitous social networks that help people spread the word about their favorite shows, and reduce the need for conventional advertising. Enter much cheaper production equipment and editing you can complete on a laptop computer.
What is left? A change of heart on the part of the consumer. Sooner or later, they are going to get tired of clicking through a spectrum of old shows, past infomercials, across a stretch of Venezuelan soap operas to discover the network show that was over-produced and under-conceived. Right now, they’re finding something a little bit intelligent, here and there on AMC or PBS or HBO, for a few extra bucks, and if they miss that show, they pay for it on the internet.
Pretty soon, though, someone will figure out a way for them to skip the $85 a month cable bill altogether–and get more directly to the specific library of entertainment they really value. Netflix isn’t doing that. There is no brand there, just volume. Amazon and Itunes aren’t really doing that either, because they are just bulk libraries too. (And as far as I know, they aren’t very kind to small time producers either.)
As we keep producing shows, there will be more and more hours of colonial drama available online, and there will be a bulk purchase there, that will make the single credit card swipe a bargain.
When that happens, and we think it will happen fairly soon, who needs any network?