Colony Bay TV

Storming the Gates of Hell

January 8, 2013 James Riley

The attempt to find online viewersToday’s content is only for those folks who have “Joined the Colony.”  You can do that, right now, here, and you even get FOUR HOURS of 18th century drama for your trouble.   Go to it, soldier!

It’s no secret that we charged head-long into the television business because we hate the current gate-keepers and what they have done to American culture.  For the most part, programming executives are timid, trendy, brand-obsessed, story-challenged, absurdly self-content know-nothings.    I have built up such contempt for these people that our executive producer, Jonathan Wilson, gets nervous when we take a meeting. Believe it or not, some people do lunch just to do lunch, even if it involves a 90 minute drive across Los Angeles.  After fifteen minutes of pointless social flim-flam and credential-flaunting, there’s an awkward moment where I finally ask the question:  “Just curious.  Have you watched our show yet?”  When they say ‘no,’ and I start to think about some of the other programs they have put on the air, I just sort of check out and stare at the wall.

Hollywood, in general, has two problems. They think they can make you a star. This power makes them self-important and cold to the touch, but it’s absurd. No one remembers stars for their flesh and blood. They remember them for some transcendent moment, for something a writer had them say. I don’t care about being a star.  I’m old and cranky and I don’t want to be a celebrity. YUCK.  I want to tell a story — and that’s Hollywood’s other problem.  They don’t read enough.  They wouldn’t know a good story if it crawled into their crocks and they had to shake it out onto the floor in the morning.

Here’s how one “getting into the business” advice column put it:

For folks outside of the business, trying to break in can be difficult. Hardly any of the networks will meet with a new writer directly..

Okay, I was a fiction editor at one point, and we all know why that might be.   There’s a lot of really bad stuff out there, especially by beginners, but their job is to take serious material seriously, to keep scanning the horizon, instead of the menu, and let’s face it.  Look at the results.  They aren’t doing their job.  The Office jumped the shark four seasons back and Suburgatory?   Really?

We get comments like this, from people like Asher Abrams in San Francisco:

“…So, I am officially hooked on Courage, New Hampshire.  Only four episodes out so far but I am impatiently awaiting the next. If you think a Colonial drama with a bunch of folks in triangular hats and bonnets sounds boring, you seriously need to check this out. Episode 1 is online for free, the other three you gotta pay for. Trust me, it’s worth it.”


Or this note from Nora Chavez:

Got the four videos for Christmas. Love the story, costumes, everything. It was the best four hours I’ve had in a long time. When is the second season. I have to see more!

So we had to take the story out there directly, because the audience is smarter than the programming executives.   With the exception of PBS, (the home of Masterpiece Theater, Downton Abbey, Dickens, Twain, and all the rest), most of the network and cable world, right now, is just too dumb, or timid, to feature “Courage, New Hampshire.”

But we still have a problem, Houston.   Someone in the cable and television world should have paid us at least $500,000 per episode, but they didn’t ante up, and we need to determine how to reach an audience of 100,000 to 200,000 people who are willing to pay for good drama.  (Believe it or not, you can make a very tidy living, and pay your actors and crew a living wage with just 200,000 people in your audience.)

However, even though cable television executives are getting nervous about Blu Ray players that can stream internet video, no one has figured out how to get an audience to pay for a show directly.

As  Craig Engler put it:

The cable providers and cable networks have mutually agreed that putting SOME content online is a good idea so people can easily catch up if they miss shows, or can sample shows that they haven’t tried. But not so much content that it hurts the main business of showing TV on, you know TV. Usually that means the last 5 episodes of a currently airing show. We’ve tried more, and we’ve tried less, and I’m sure we’ll try more variations in the future. As with any untested model, we try things, and if they work well we do more of them, and if they work not so well we do less of them. Someone will probably find a way to make real money streaming online soon, and then the business model will shift (again) and you’ll see more episodes of TV online. Until that happens, this is why you don’t see more shows online.

 “Someone will probably find a way.”

Tantalizing.  Someone IS going to find a way.  The Steve Jobs or the Mark Zuckerberg of pay-for-content video streaming is probably getting very close.

Before they were Founding Fathers, they were Avenging AngelsFor those of you still reading, my sense is that we need to concentrate on price, ease-of-purchase, value, and for lack of a term, “the working hook,” that message that makes the viewer not only decide “I want to watch that,” but “I want to watch that right now.”  Take the Google Ad campaign above.  Google displayed this on youtube 22,367 times last night.   33 People clicked on it.  No one purchased.   My first impression is that when they click on that ad, right now, the landing page is too “HTML,” and the first thing they see is a big, honking “$30.”

The splash should look something like this.  They should be given a little free candy first, and then the perfect entry price, and it should be really easy, and they should get the feeling, “..okay, for $, I can spend four hours in the 18th century.”

Right?  Any Zuckerbergs out there?  Anyone WANT to be?

The hard part’s done.


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