The Big Five (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, The CW) are in mortal danger.
TiVo, YouTube, Cable, Illegal Downloading and the Interweb are among the many threats against the networks’ current existence.
Their future might be unknown, but here are 9 ideas for them to catch up with today’s world and slow down the television crisis.
The first four ideas are coming up right now:
1. Shows all year long
Summer equals reality shows, network season is from September to May, and no one is watching TV on Christmas Eve.
True, but also false.
The web of scripted television is growing more and more each year. It first began on a “diversity” level. 3 networks became 4 and then 5 and then basic and premium cable changed the way TV was made, and viewed.
Now, cable has allowed another change to take place. A change in the season schedule. Or rather, seasons.
Summer reruns are (almost) a thing of the past. Make way for all-new summer episodes on every major cable network. From SciFi to AMC, USA or Lifetime, everyone is breaking boundaries where there is no need for them.
Even the main networks are now following the trend.
FOX is pushing its fall shows a month ahead of the competition, almost putting them during the summer. Last year, NBC wanted to be there at Christmas with The Office and Heroes. CBS has Flashpoint and next year NBC will have The Listener. And some mid-season shows are premiering around March instead of January.
Everyone can watch everything everywhere whenever. Seasons are obsolete.
And this brings us to…
Illegal downloading has been around for a while now and somewhat of a solution has been found.
Meet Video On Demand.
First ABC, now NBC, FOX, CBS, The CW and even Showtime. You name your network, you’ll have your online download/streaming service. And there’s also this little thing called Hulu.
ABC.com’s player (launched in 2006) attracted over 9 millions users last April.
DVDs will soon become a thing of the past, and so will Blu-Ray, real fast.
The future of distribution is online, and it is immaterial.
Missed an episode?
You can go to the network’s site, go to iTunes, go on HBO/Sho On Demand, or go to your friend’s house. You know, the one with TiVo.
There’s also Veoh, which has made a deal with ABC.
There’s money to be made (and is made) on the Internet. Ads are the only way we can get things for free.
Speaking of money…
3. Fewer ads
Ever felt the urge during your TV watching to switch channels?
Yeah, that’s what ads are for.
One of the many reasons people are looking towards other means of watching TV rather than actually watching it is because of the 17 minutes of ads per hour.
Fewer ads during a TV show means less channel-switching and viewers will stay on the channel. That’s damage control for you.
Fox is actively thinking about it with Fringe and Dollhouse which have about 55 minutes of actual content with minute-long commercial breaks.
Less ad also helps the creative process by giving a show space to expand rather than artificially cutting it in 6 little pieces.
Is less more?
4. Shorter seasons
The strike may have had other positive unforeseen side-effects.
Remember Dirty Sexy Money? Probably not, because it only had 13 episodes last season.
But that’s okay.
Less is definitely more when it comes to shows like Lost. A radically shorter season definitely helped the show to condense its mythology and get on with the answers instead of waiting around for 5 other episodes.
It might not be that good for the Big Five in terms of cash but in a qualitative way, it’s certainly a game-changer.
Now, combine shorter seasons with 55-minute long shows around the year available for free whenever wherever on VOD.
Welcome to the new world, Networks.
More (crazy) ideas tomorrow!