Friday, March 18

Strangling V: Did Online Rights Kill The Show?

VLast year, ABC initially thought it might have tapped into next franchise sci-fi relaunch success story like Battlestar Galactica. The television series V had it all: a riveting premiere, strong story potential, and ample buzz from fans nostalgic for the original series. The premiere drew 14.3 million viewers.

This year, things look very different. Despite ugly angry aliens in Battle: LA helping the war flick with a science fiction twist to claim the number one spot at the box office, audiences have no appetite for the passive aggressive aliens in human skins like those found in the television series V. Its recent ratings, 5.5 million viewers, is considered an uptick.

There is no other way to say it. It's a dead show walking.

But the show didn't commit suicide on its own. ABC had placed it on the bubble last year. It could almost be considered a miracle that the series saw a single second season show.

However, if there was any hope that the series might survive, other decisions clinched its demise. ABC ordered a truncated season 2, first 13 shows and then only 10. It also slated the show for a slot that followed a weak opener on a bad night for the network. And finally, the network decided to withhold electronic distribution of season 2 on all fronts.

Fellow V fans,
It is with much regret that we must inform you that full episodes of V will not be available on ABC.com or Hulu for Season 2. Just like you, we truly wish full episodes were playing here. But we also hope our detailed recaps will keep you informed and entertained should you ever miss an episode.

Best always,
The ABC.com Team


Just like you, we truly wish full episodes were playing here?

Despite rumors, the avoided answer — ABC didn’t acquire the online rights for the second season — does exist. And this fits in with Time Warner not liking the price of online content.

VIt would have made more sense for ABC to spell it out, but it seems painfully obvious they don't want to answer the second round "why?" It's likely related to the price of online licensing. And ABC is just as happy to kill the program. (Although they haven't officially killed it yet.)

It seems to beg the question. What is the fair price of a single season? On iTunes, a season of House sells at $60 for high definition and about $40 for standard definition (22 episodes). Amazingly, people still watch first runs and replays, even if they buy it. So perhaps the question that ought to be asked is — what is the value of a product nobody can watch?

Network schedule-only shows cannot survive in an anytime environment. Period.

V was okay, but it never really lived up to satisfying any nostalgic sensibilities. It was good enough to watch now and again, but only on a consumer schedule. In other words, it worked for semi-interested viewers who tuned into Hulu.com or purchased the season on iTunes. But if it wasn't available there, there wasn't much compulsion to purchase a DVD for $30 (or maybe $15 given there are only 10 episodes)? It doesn't make sense.

Digital frees the consumer from shipping costs. And it frees the producers from packaging costs. It's easier to store too. Real space is best reserved for those special collector's packages or those few movies where physical copies feel right for some reason.

Sure, not everyone has a digital device or a component video cable to make their computer-television conversion seamless. But eventually they will. And if not with a hard cable connection, then with WiFi sharing. With this in mind, $40 to $60 per season seems reasonable because it's the standard networks and producers set when they wanted to cash in on videos and compact discs.

But more importantly, when viewers cannot catch their shows or forget to set their DVRs (because they missed the first few episodes or have too much in memory already), then limiting distribution won't gain viewers or increase the value. It will diminish viewers or possibly turn them off entirely (with the possible exception of a few shows).

Profit doesn't come from protection. It comes from innovation.
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