Friday, November 28, 2008

Programming for the YouTube Generation

I've been thinking a lot about the future of broadcast TV, both in terms of the business model and the format of entertainment content. The business model is getting increasingly complicated, as audiences want to watch TV on their terms. Hence, the use of the Internet as a channel, video-on-demand, and DVD/PVRs (digital recording of TV à la TiVo-like devices) are on the rise. Given the targeting of younger audiences (youth culture) and, more generally, the coveted 18-49 demographic, it makes sense to examine media usage trends of younger viewers.  The Pew Charitable Trust's Internet & American Life Project has been studying the use of social media, such as YouTube.  The prevalence of use is increasing and there's trends along gender lines.  Girls tend to create text content and boys post videos.  Moreover, 2007 numbers show 3+ hours of daily viewing a month (68 videos or a little over 2 per day) and one of the hallmarks of online video is that most posted content is fairly short (2.7 minutes).

While the networks had 15-minute shows in the 1950s, the format has fallen out of favor, save for cultural outposts like [a d u l t  s w i m], a block of animated shows for a younger (often male) audiences on Cartoon Network (US).  Will the use of media online shape expectations for broadcast content, in terms of shorter shows?  I think this offers great opportunities for building audiences and followings for shows in this "attention economy" where our time & attention spans are scarce.

Frisky Dingo clip from [a d u l t s w i m]

The show "*ssy McGee" has secured a single sponsor, Scion, and has integrated the ad into the look-and-feel of the show.  This model is evocative of streamed content on network sites and  I see the Scion's media buy is a good match with their target market.  MyDamnChannel, featuring the short YouSuckAtPhotoshop series shows how short videos can be disseminated online with a host site, but using Web 2.0 video sharing sites (YouTube) to enable the content to go viral.
You Suck at Photoshop #1

Ostensibly, the costs will be lower and ideally more shorter content can diversify a programming portfolio.  Therefore, the keys will be the revenues, so building online audience and going viral are the brass rings.  Firms and brand managers should be thinking creatively about sponsoring content that's "on-code" with their brands and plugged into their integrated communications.  A tricky issue that needs to be addressed is the one of royalty payments for online content, which I feel can be solved, although I predict a convoluted system akin to the Writer's Guild's rules for determining writing credits.