Showing posts with label Warner Bros.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Warner Bros.. Show all posts

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.

Friday, June 13

Nothing But Net: TheWB.com


A little more than two years ago, Warner Bros. Television Group (WBTVG) announced it would make hundreds of movies and television shows available for purchase over the Internet. They’ve come a long way since then.

Today, WBTVG announced digital distribution deals with Dailymotion, Joost, Sling Media, TiVo and Veoh. It already has a channel on AOL and a surprisingly dynamic Facebook application, with a trailer that ends “the next great network will not be televised.”

“The launch of TheWB.com [beta] represents a natural progression of the Warner Bros. Television Group’s digital strategy and complements our core business, which is based upon episodic storytelling, first-class distribution and providing value to partners through advertising in a premium environment,” said Bruce Rosenblum, president of WBTVG.

The move also solidifies the continued shift toward total broadcast-Internet convergence, especially since Warner Bros. will be adding original short form content. Currently, the WB beta site is offering full episodes of All Of Us, Blue Water High, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dangerous, Friends, Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Smallville, The OC, and Veronica Mars.

What will be especially interesting is if the new site might even provide viewers another opportunity to resurrect some shows that did not perform well according to Nielsen ratings. Several had developed strong Internet fan bases, including Veronica Mars, Moonlight, and Supernatural.

Moonlight fans found out their show was cancelled in May while Veronica Mars fans are still working hard to see their favorite detective move from the small screen to the big screen. (Supernatural has at least one more season left on The CW; we hope many more.) According to fans, all of these shows have a following that is not well represented by Nielsen.

For WBTVG, the move toward an all-digital network might also provide marketers and advertisers with more options than investing exclusively in their own original content to reach an audience that is already outpacing traditional media. The primary advantage for WBTVG over other networks seems to be that they are unencumbered by any attachments to traditional media. For them, it’s simply full steam ahead.

Digg!

Friday, March 28

Demonstrating High Touch: Veronica Mars Fans


Social media continues to prove high tech communication is an effective means to communicate, organize, and establish a presence. However, one can never underestimate the impact of high touch over high tech. It’s tangible. It’s memorable. And it’s effective long after any online communication has faded from memory.

John Sumser, The Recruiting Roadshow, and Doug Geinzer, Recruiting Nevada, demonstrated they understand the value of high touch communication as well, sending handwritten notes shortly after The Recruiting Roadshow was hosted in Las Vegas. The notes were polite, personal, and remain top of mind.

Fans Add High Touch To Online Campaign.

Yesterday, I received a package from the fans of Veronica Mars. It was somewhat unexpected, and appreciated. The reason I say “somewhat” was because Veronica Mars fans sent me a note last year asking if they could send me a gift for writing about them here and there. While I was flattered, I declined. It was my pleasure. And, old journalist habits die hard.

A couple of days ago, however, Rachel Gerke, one of my original contacts with the Veronica Mars fans, asked if they could send me a “thank you.” Sure, I said.

What I didn’t know was they were sending me the Veronica Mars First Season DVD. It is not a gift. It’s part of their “Loan It Forward” program.

“We are asking you to try watching three or four episodes to see if you like it and decide if you want to watch the rest of the season,” explained Mark Thompson from Neptune Rising. “After you are done with the set, we are asking you to loan it forward to somebody else and give them an opportunity to see if they might like our show.”

Veronica Mars fans convinced me several months ago to give their show a chance. I have, relying on Season 3 episodes that are easily downloaded from iTunes. It's a good show, no question.

However, they sent Season 1 because they felt it better represents their passion. Season 1 and Season 2 are the primary reasons that fans, which saw their show cancelled last year, are campaigning for a movie.

Perhaps even more than a movie, they are campaigning for community. The Neptune Rising forum remains a positive, well-organized fan-generated project with clear objectives. I’m not surprised; some ideas are inspired by Browncoats, fans of the series Firefly.

One of several ideas the Veronica Mars fans have recently adopted is a cruise, which will depart from San Diego on Nov. 28. It includes stops in Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada. Tour sites may include Mars Investigations, The Neptune Grand, Camelot Motel, Dog Beach, and much more.

In Europe, fans are also getting ready for a joint Veronica Mars — Prison Break convention this June 13-15 at the Thistle Hotel, Heathrow, London. It is there they hope to present fan scrapbooks to Kristen Bell and Jason Dhoring. Convention information can be found here.

"We knew about the convention two months ago; they organize events for the fans of TV Series," says Sara Pillitu, who helps with the European Chapter of Neptune Rising. "This is a great chance to meet up with other fans, and maybe have them campaigning with us."

The fans have also remained in contact with Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, who is currently working hard to become the busiest man in television. Thomas even has a downloadable original pilot script on this personal site.

The “Loan It Forward” program and joint fan collaborations demonstrate a high touch element to online efforts. Enough so that if a well-read blogger hasn’t been introduced to Veronica Mars, I invite them to drop me an e-mail. I’ll be happy to send along the “Loan It Forward” set, er, as soon as I’m finished.

The two Josh Whedon-inspired comics, Serenity 1 by Dark Horse and Angel #1 by IDW, on the other hand ... well, those will stay here. It was a very thoughtful gesture and they will always remind me of Veronica Mars fans at Neptune Rising.

Thank you, though the pleasure has always been mine. I've already thought of a pay them forward too. I'll donate the value (but not the books, since I am both a Firefly and comic fan) to a non-profit, under the name "Veronica Mars." Be cool, Soda Pop.

Digg!

Saturday, November 3

Striking Writers: Writer's Guild Of America


Although a federal mediator has called a last minute Sunday morning meeting between major media and the Writer's Guild Of America (WGA), it seems certain that 12,000 writers will go on strike Monday.

From the network perspective, budgets are going up while ratings are going down. From the writers perspective, they want higher residuals, especially from DVDs (they are asking for eight cents per copy as opposed to three or five cents). And they are serious.

As Jericho fans know, the strike could return Jericho to the small screen much earlier than as a truncated midseason show in January. But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

Coming back as a Band Aid for CBS would mean limited promotion time prior to a start date (not that CBS seems like it would go gangbusters on it anyway). This also assumes Jericho fans and new viewers will be satisfied with some lower budget solutions that made it impossible to pick up where the season one cliffhanger left off. And, with only seven shows in the can, even if season two was a hit, fans would once again find themselves looking at yet another long wait between seasons.

From the fans' perspective, it doesn’t make sense. For Veronica Mars fans, on the other hand, a writers strike could help return it to syndication, giving new viewers a chance to see the series for the first time. You never know what might happen if that happened. Why? Because in new world of media, crazier things have, are, and will happen. Don’t believe me?

• ABC recently asked Rob Thomas to bring back Cupid, a 15-episode series that debuted in 1998.

• The Teamsters’ 4,500 truck drivers, casting directors, and location managers may join the WGA strike. ABC, on the other hand, suggested writers consider dropping or converting their WGA membership to work anyway. Yep, crazy.

Digg!

Saturday, October 20

Raising Neptune: Veronica Mars Fans


Kristen Bell, best known for her role on the cult hit Veronica Mars, will be joining the cast of Heroes this Monday. And with her, she may be bringing thousands of Veronica Mars fans.

Veronica Mars fans have long since noticed that the Veronica Mars DVD will be released the day after Bell’s debut as a new character with mysterious electric powers. In preparation, hundreds of fans have downloaded fliers to help promote the Save Veronica Mars Web site under their combined group banner Neptune Rising.

As part of their DVD promotion efforts, Veronica Mars fans have even pooled together enough money to, weather permitting, fly a banner "Buy Veronica Mars Season 3 On Sale Now" from Middletown, Ohio, to Cincinnati.

“The flight will be approximately an hour long and we are hoping to hit rush hour traffic along two expressways,” says Mark Thompson, who operates the Save Veronica Mars Web site. “Cloudwatchers flew one for Veronica Mars to get us a Season 3 and campaigners for the show Invasion flew one trying to save their show last year as well.”

Thompson says renting planes is becoming commonplace for fan groups. CSI fans, he says, are looking to rent planes with banners to save a character on the show. In addition to the plane flight, they are recruiting bloggers and other fans to make noise on the Internet this Monday and Tuesday.

Veronica Mars fan Rachel Gerke, who pitches better than many working public relations professionals I know, tells me that on Oct. 23, Veronica Mars fans will begin collecting letters to make fan scrapbooks for Kristen Bell, Rob Thomas, and Alan Horn, president of Warner Brothers. The scrapbooks will take some time to get together, but fans are hoping to complete the project as a holiday gift. And, half a world away, a Veronica Mars fan has been promoting an Oct. 26 start date for Veronica Mars syndication in Australia.

Combined, Veronica Mars fans have easily redeemed themselves since the Buddy TV story in June told them to turn to Jericho fans for help. Nowadays, it almost seems to be the other way around.

The difference isn’t in the fans; it’s in network communication. Jericho fans are still mending fences after fan fallouts caused by some who lobbied Nina Tassler’s message, which implied that CBS fans might save the show if they simply “hung out” on the CBS message boards. While most fans are friendly, visiting the kitchen tends to drive more people away over disputes than it can keep.

For Jericho, the best ideas continue to be those away from the network (it’s about time). Next week, I’ll be looking for them to see if we can find some kind of sum up and solidarity.

If there is a lesson to be learned by networks, there seems to be two distinct ways to work with passionate fans: either partner with them and provide the support they need or stay far, far away. Unfortunately, CBS tends to fall somewhere in the middle, floating messages out through select fans and editing posts that might distract from those who seem closer to them.

Although the stay “far, far away” approach might seem frustrating for Veronica Mars fans at times, they should be happy not to have a halfway headache. The result is a clear focus: Veronica Mars Season 3 DVD goes on sale Oct. 23. If you haven’t heard, I expect you will.

Digg!

Saturday, September 22

Making The Grade: Veronica Mars


Jericho fan John Rodriguez, who publishes the Jericho-dedicated video-driven ThunderHawk blog on Yahoo! 360 beta, knows that the “greatest challenge is keeping people motivated. It takes a lot of time invested into
promoting something. It takes good communication, and fresh up to date information, on what is going on.”

“You must fan the flames of your project, and keep it hot,” says the Internet veteran who used to run three early BBS networks. “There is a small handful I have seen excel above and beyond. The work I have seen is much better than current CBS promotions.”

Jericho fans continue to do their best, largely on their own, while waiting for CBS to officially reveal the start date of Jericho Season 2 (which is likely to be a mid-season break). Similarly, but for very different reasons, the power of consumer marketing is also being played out by another fan base. Unlike Jericho, they have nothing but rumors and faith that something, anything, might happen.

These are the fans of Veronica Mars, the critically acclaimed teen drama/mystery neo-noir series starring Kristen Bell. They could not save their show from being cancelled (the only reason perhaps, in my opinion, was the late start of the consumer campaign), but have, amazingly enough, continued to build on their momentum.

“The main problem with putting together a campaign of any kind is ensuring that there are not multiple campaigns working against each other,” says Shannon Miller, Web master of the Veronica Mars Movie Web site. “The best way to keep up morale is to work in phases … to have multiple steps to the larger plan, and continue to encourage smaller campaigns along the way.”

Like Jericho, there are several groups of fans with different goals, ranging from fast-tracking syndication to focusing on the full-length feature film (and some who still hold out for a complete reinstatement, which seems unlikely). Where Veronica Mars fans are winning is in their success in establishing a centralized forum called Neptune Rising. The goal of Neptune Rising is to consolidate fans with different goals under one campaign banner in order to benefit each other and support a larger campaign, whether that means promoting syndication or the movie.

“We occasionally have a hiccup, but we work them out,” says Mark Thompson, who was introduced to Veronica Mars as late as season 3 because of previous fan efforts. He works on Save Veronica Mars. ”Morale is something that has to be considered and it varies with each person [so we have to keep it high]. Right now, we’re concentrating on building our membership numbers because the more members we have, the better our chance of success.”

Thompson, like everyone we had contact with, stressed that they respect the privacy of the creators, crew, and cast (even saying they are excited that Bell will be appearing in Heroes), and prefer to keep their focus narrow: finding existing fans, creating new fans, requesting syndication, and keeping the dream of a movie alive. By doing so, their work has gotten noticed. Rob Thomas, Veronica Mars creator, recently responded to a letter sent in by a former Web master.

“I'm afraid I don't have a definitive answer other than to say I want to do it. Unfortunately right now, I need to pay the bills, and I'd have to write the movie on spec.,” said Thomas. “It's difficult to consult on a show, develop new pilots and knock out comic books and/or a feature script. I'm grateful that there are fans anxious for it, and I remain motivated.”

Thomas is not the only one. Rachel Gerke, who was instrumental in providing backgrounders and assisting us with collecting interviews (better than some public relations professionals, I might add) for this post, notes that Bell’s answers in interviews have changed.

“I think that Kristen Bell is listening. Her interviews went from thinking that a movie was not going to happen to talk between her and Rob Thomas that it could happen,” said Gerke. “I think the challenge is getting enough active people in each of our smaller groups. As long as we have someone overseeing each of them, which we do, it will work out well.”

Courtney Harris is one of the primary organizers. She created the majority of the sites, including the forum and MySpace page. She also made many of the petitions and movie posters.

“I’m not big on coming up with ideas, but I’m really good at getting things done,” says Harris. “A lot of dedicated fans seem to be listening and willing to take on the challenge, and fans in general seem to be interested in what we’re doing. Just getting a group of fans together to create a campaign is a huge success in my opinion. As long we stay on track, I’m hoping it will all go up from there.”

If there any is indication that their collective plans are working, perhaps Sara Pillitu is the perfect example. She is an Italian fan who followed the “Bars for Mars” cancellation protest campaign but suddenly found herself very involved in the effort.

“We’re very lucky to be happy to be ‘shiny, happy people’ and we work constantly to keep morale up with jokes and discussions about the show,” says Pillitu. “We do a lot of recruitment and we always look for new ideas to get the people involved in our campaign to save Veronica Mars. Unfortunately, Veronica Mars is not so popular in Europe, so right now I'm trying to spread the buzz on the show and create a partnership between us and the European fan sites.”

Collectively, while the outcome is anybody’s guess, Veronica Mars fans have a lot working in their favor. Here is a hot list of things they are doing right:

• They have established a centralized group that remains largely positive.
• They have designated smaller groups, each focusing on slightly different promotional efforts or social networks with informal leaders to provide direction.
• They welcome new Web masters and encourage them to promote specific goals.
• They have established clearly defined primary goals: engage existing fans (some who have become active supporters) and find new fans (loaning personal DVD sets when they have to) with the focus on supporting a movie.
• They have established secondary goals such as encouraging Warner Brothers to put the show into syndication and promoting DVD sales.
• They have a consistent message. Each participant responded separately, but they all had very similar answers. Their message sticks.
• They have remained courteous and supportive of the cast and crew, even going so far as to promote other ventures.
• They have remained courteous and supportive of each other and have fun.

All of this seems to demonstrate marked progress since we first mentioned Veronica Mars fan efforts in June. Currently, the fans are also looking for ways to raise funds to support promotional efforts as well as encouraging other sites to pick up on their efforts. (Hey Stephen King ... maybe you could plug fan base movements in one of your Entertainment Weekly columns.)

For some other insights into the fan base that will never say Neptune sets, visit the VMCW MySpace page where they still comment today. Consumer marketing. You have to love it!

Digg!
 

Blog Archive

by Richard Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template