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media myopia

I am a big science fiction fan, as a kid I spent hours watching shows of the late 70's and early 80's. From the original Battle Star Galactica to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, being a baby of the 70's. I was just old enough to be absolutely awed by the new age of sci fi films ushered in by George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg and then to have a front seat for the many block busters of the 80's. Most of my viewing came from tv, cable (remember WHT?) and then VHS. Today, the internet has made many of the shows from the 80's and 90's a stones throw away IF the media companies that own them would only get wize to the possibilities. Just a minute ago I was at tv.com , watching episodes of Star Trek, what I noticed was that the episodes available are only a subset of the show's total run. Why? Why are the media companies blind to the potential of allowing anyone , anywhere to watch the complete series online? The conventional explanation is that they are unable to extract sufficient revenue from ads to support this, but how can they know this if they don't try? More important, is the fact, that it seems their analysis seems to be valuing the potential of each series at a time, rather than looking at the potential for all their properties online to produce ad revenue. Think about it, the Star Trek series is something that on cable , can ONLY be watched during specific intervals of time when they show (syndicated in various countries) happens to be on the local schedules of those areas. If we assume that at any given moment , 50 syndicated episodes of Star Trek are being shown somewhere in the world (and that is a generous number in my view) , the media company can at most only be showing 50 different episodes from the series over 100 episode run. Additionally, in each area , there is a display of usually one episode per 24 hour period. So those that want to watch the show, needs to tune in at the precisely right time to find it. The ad revenue potentially derived from the spots placed between the segments of such episodes are thus wasted if those individuals miss the episode for at least 24 hours.

Now contrast this to what could be possible online, if Star Trek was available, every episode of the entire season, people could watch it when they wanted to. They would not have to tune in to a specific time and would not have to wait 24 hours since they would never "miss" episodes they can queue up at any time. Additionally, by interspersing the online episodes with single commercials, the potential number of viewers of all the displays of the ads across all of the possible episodes being displayed 24 hours a day could easily swamp the impressions made across all the areas on tv. They would be making ad revenue continuously throughout the day instead of at specific intervals in the day, they would be able to satisfy the desire for viewers to watch the show at the time of their choosing, be able to take advantage of repeat viewings by enabling people to watch mult-part episode arcs and season open/close finale sets without season breaks. Finally, and probably most lucrative, would be the ability to watch episodes in places that make tv viewing impossible. Viewers with laptops and smart phones could watch from and to work or vacation. The ability to gain an impression would no longer be restricted to the living rooms of people's homes but would go with them where ever they went. These would allow users watching to stay on the site as they watch, at the same time, the site could be used to mine the viewership of precisely the type of shows they are interested in, they could mind series for particular times of the year to see if there is a correlation with the type of show, they can use this data to inform their new series production directions. Ultimately, putting the old series online would allow them to better target newer series to a much wider audience. As they begin to reap the rewards of this open series concept they would see the potential of being really bold and doing the same for currently running series. Why should the latest episode of CSI only be available online at hulu.com , the day after it originally airs? Why isn't available at the same time? The people who watch it on tv, will do so, the people who watch it online will do so, but giving the option , allows the tv viewers to catch an episode they missed online at any time they wish. The broadcaster would again be able to mine the metrics of the episodes in a much better way than is currently by buying analysis data from companies like Neilsen, with their own sites they could mine their own data and wouldn't have to pay for a third party for the analysis.

I think the media companies are still trying to make sense of what the internet means, the devastation that availability of mp3's made to the music media companies is only going to repeat itself in video IF the companies don't take the reigns and control distribution of their media online instead of letting the pirates do it for them. Already, signs are in place that some of the companies get it, but it is not bold enough a move, with only partial lists of episodes for many series that first aired 20 years ago. It's not an issue of encoding either, original shows could be encoded to HD quality video for online streaming in very short time using an average pc. The media companies have some other motive for restricting their set of options but they are only ultimately , restricting their ability to derive revenue from their archives while missing out on the chance of being THE online destination for watching cherished shows from the past, at any time desired for the small fee of suffering 4 or 5 30 or 60 second spots between the episode segments.

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