Following on from my earlier rant about ludicrous and archaic regional restrictions on downloadable and streaming media, The Telegraph has an interesting piece looking at the future viability of the television industry as a whole.
They focus on a recent speech given by Kevin Spacey where he discusses how the TV industry (particularly in the USA) must adapt and break away from the pilot -> probationary season model that squashes innovation and sees too many potentially good shows canceled before they have the opportunity to properly establish themselves. Key excerpts of the speech are here:
The Telegraph reports:
Giving the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, the American actor called on the industry to take advantage of massive interest in boxsets and cult dramas such as Breaking Bad to take more risks and have patience with shows that are not instant hits.
Mr Spacey said: “[In 1990] the film industry didn’t believe that television could ever become its biggest competitor. I do not think anyone today 15 years later – [in terms of character driven drama] can argue that television has not indeed taken over.
“The warp-speed of technological advancement – the internet, streaming, multi-platforming – happens to have coincided with the recognition of TV as an art form.
“So you have this incredible confluence of a medium coming into its own just as the technology for that medium is drastically shifting. Studios and networks who ignore either shift – whether the increasing sophistication of storytelling, or the constantly shifting sands of technological advancement – will be left behind.”
All very true. And as we have seen with the industry’s laggardly response in coming to terms with a globalised audience unwilling to accept phased release dates and geographically restricted online access, television does not appear primed to address these challenges.
Spacey continues, with reference to his recent remake of the British political thriller “House of Cards”, which was wildly popular and released as a downloadable “box set” on NetFlix rather than in serial form via one of the traditional broadcast networks:
“If someone can watch an entire season of a TV series in one day, doesn’t that show an incredible attention span? We must observe, adapt and try new things to discover appetites we didn’t know were there.”
This last point really hits the nail on the head. Just as consumers no longer have to flick through a meagre three or four grainy broadcast network channels to get their television fix, neither do they want to consume their favourite shows in one hour increments, dosed out at weekly intervals by the paternalistic TV networks. It is for this reason that TV series “bingeing” has become a phenomena, with many people (myself included) preferring to watch five or six episodes of a favourite show in one sitting, as I have done with Game of Thrones, House of Cards and many others.
The longer that the television industry remains obdurate and inconsiderate of this shift in consumer sentiment and behaviour, the more they will continue to lose out to other business models (such as the NetFlix downloadable series model) and video piracy.
It has never been easier to find episodes of your favourite television show for free, hosted on anonymous websites of dubious legality. The television industry would do well to remember this as they continue to erect more and more bureaucratic and legal obstacles between the consumer and the media that they want to consume.
The full transcript of Kevin Spacey’s lecture can be read here.