Could the internet save television production companies millions and extensive embarrassment? The folks at ABI Research say video downloads (also know as vlogs or video podcasts) could be an effective means of floating prospective TV shows before committing the resources to full production.
"The mainstream broadcast model is an extraordinarily expensive way to trial new concepts and shows," he says. "Over 70% of all new shows don't survive the first season. The logic of trying short versions on emerging platforms at relatively low cost before committing to the expense of hour-long TV productions will soon be apparent to content owners."
Saving us (and the networks) from the likes
of Just Legal
by floating snippets of new shows online might work. Companies could float concepts for pilots online, but getting veteran actors to commit their time to a show that might not even be aired once will be difficult. Studios could post all of their filmed pilots and ask for feedback before they make the commitment to taping 6 or more episodes, which is usually the minimum.
However, videocasts could be used to test interesting ideas, but perhaps the bigger question is, can production companies create viable short form programming that is sold or distributed online? Successful short form entertainment includes animation, which is successfully shown in aggregate at art-house festivals, and sketch comedy like Kids in the Hall
and the formerly funny Saturday Night Live
Couldn't these shows be distributed as pay-for or ad-supported video casts aimed at online users as well as iPods, portable media players and even cell phones? Humor in particular can be great in 3-5 minute bursts, but too often these great ideas are stretched in 22 minutes of filler. A service delivering the best in short form animation would be huge.
National Geographic recently took the plunge
and created a short form unit. Today there isn't enough of an videocast audience to compete with the millions of people who watch primetime shows, but by aiming a little lower today (and saving money), TV production companies could create a whole new medium.