I recently wrote an article (in French) about wanting to take a look at a new Channel 4 series in the UK called the "IT crowd". I was thinking 'wow this is great', the TV channels have finally understood that they can make money from distributing content over the Internet with maybe having adverts in the streamed content. This was all supposition since I hadn't yet got round to having a look.
So anyway, I do a search for IT crowd not seeing it on the first page of channel4.com and get a whole list of shows with crowd in the name, must be a buzz word with the channel 4 production teams.
I get to the home page of the series and see a list of the episodes. There's a message that says : "CTRL+ALT+DELETE your TV and watch the IT Crowd online!". I click on a link to the latest episode and I get the message : "We're sorry, but users outside the UK cannot access The IT Crowd".
I also got an ad saying "Your opinion counts, please take this survey". I was naively thinking "oh that's great" I can give them my opinion about not being able to see the show abroad. However the survey had nothing to do with Channel 4.
It seems to me that this is, yet again, an example of the same reaction that the music industry had to MP3 or from a wider perspective to digital music. I already discussed how the will to restrict users so much on what they could do with music and what format it could be in was a really bad move from the music industry. Rather than looking at innovating ways to provide different distribution solutions they spent it on taking people to court which didn't get them much sympathy either. A bit of a Public Relations disaster...
I feel that TV channels may be approaching this issue, for some, in a more interesting way ex: the series Lost can be downloaded via iTunes. However, none seem to be thinking OK let's innovate and take the problem head on, let's find an innovative way of providing the content our traditional users like. Looking at how we can distribute it on the Internet. I mean, in the case above, if channel 4 had given me a message saying "For copyright reasons this content is viewable for 1 or 2 Euros" then I would have most probably said OK.
I also think that an issue with TV shows, is that most people as opposed to songs, won't be watching it say twenty times in a week. There is a great Canadian show called ReGenesis that I really do enjoy watching and although it is not intellectually challenging it is nicely written and the actors are good to very good. However once I have watched it, well I may watch it in two or three years time, but most probably not before then. So what would the pricing be for series ? On this blog an episode of the series Lost is described as costing 2 dollars, has no commercials, with a good quality and also on the same page it looks as if they have cleverly come up with the idea of a 'season pass' !
I'm wondering if it came from Jasonbainbridge.com since he seems to have asked for this before it was implemented 😉 Jason also in another post gives details on the format which seems to be high quality but at a low resolution : 320*240 and looks OK in full screen mode !
You can see how this whole 'hot series' on iTunes happened since iTunes is hot stuff at the moment. But how will things play out, since at the end of the day, people are going to be connecting to iTunes instead of ABC if this is a trend setter.
Maybe the guys at ABC are just playing along at the moment and haven't really thought it through !? But it is also a point, that the real pulling effect is the series itself 'Lost' and the people that own/produce it. You see the name all over the web regardless of the language, country etc. Say 'Lost' to Frenchmen (or women :)) and many will recognise it as the name of a series, say ABC and they'll probably be clueless or think you're talking about learning the alphabet...
It's true that if you have the money you can create a name for yourself but I get the distinct impression that the brand is shifting and in the case of Lost, you'll remember iTunes and Lost. And between being able to say "The channel that brought you..." as opposed to being the distribution channel people remember like iTunes, well, instinctive brand awareness/association is better.
I'm sure quite a few people would be prepared to accept adverts for a channel pass of say 20 dollars / euros a month even if in Europe there is far less advertising than in the US. I was astonished by how much there was and when it appeared during a trip to New-York ! So hopefully like Jason was heard by iTunes maybe some of TV channels could grant me the pleasure of a channel pass to see their series, regardless of where I connect to the Internet from 🙂
Take a look at my post over at Singificant-Media.com where I have continued discussing this matter.