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The conversation surrounding how to liberate HBO from its cable partners and create the entertainment utopia viewers have long desired has been fascinating.
The resulting analyses of the numbers has pretty much shown that the amount people are willing to pay is not nearly enough to counter what cable giants bring to networks like HBO. We’d each have to pay a gazillion dollars (more or less) in order to offset the cost of making tv shows, marketing them, selling advertising, paying the actors, the gaffers, sound editing, the deli plates, the office space the sales people are housed in, costumes, post-production. Yikes!
HBO itself would probably love to find a way to not have to bunk with the cable companies, but that is the system and it can’t be changed overnight and yada yada yada.
Yes, economically and politically a la carte entertainment is not only unviable, it’s absurd! Imagine the enormity of rebuilding how entertainment gets made from the ground up.
You’d have to write a script, and instead of some production company or studio or super rich investor person stepping in to fund the pilot, you would be on your own.
You’d have to gather friends and colleagues and film the damn thing yourself. You’d do all the marketing yourself, and you’d be in charge of figuring out how to deliver the thing to people.
You’d also have to hope enough people watch your show to make it possible to keep on making it. And you’d hope that you can somehow pay rent and pay your friends and eat in the meantime.
People argue all the time that quality entertainment can’t be made for less than some number ending with no less than 5 zeros. Well people, you are wrong. Just look at The Silent City. Filmed on a shoestring budget, using natural locations instead of building massive sets — the result is pretty incredible, and it’s making me wonder more and more if the barriers to creating quality entertainment aren’t really so much about money, as cable companies, networks, and the media would argue, but who controls the money and who decides how things get made.
I don’t doubt for a second that shows like Game of Thrones cost a bajillion zillion dollars (more or less) to make, but I also wonder if in some not-so-distant future, people will film their own Game of Thrones in the woods behind the house and cast unknown talented people and distribute episodes online and all of those people clamoring for a la carte entertainment will insert a coin in the slot and unlock the next episode and maybe insert a few more coins so that the full season will get made.
In this scenario the infrastructure of television and all the people it takes to actually make the show still exists. But how something gets made is different. It’s lean. It’s more efficient. And whether or not it’s allowed to exist isn’t determined by audience share and a pre-determined number of viewers based on time slot and competition with other shows on other channels. The viewer is given agency, and so are you.
You can fund your show directly from your audience. You may not become a rich fat cat making web shows, but you will control your story and your art and your audience and fans will eagerly support you for it. That thing that happens where it seems the smartest television shows are always the first to get cut because the teeming masses want more explosions and boobs? That’s dumb, and you can change that. You shouldn’t be at the mercy of The Business.
And don’t worry, I’m well aware that The TV Industry will tell me I don’t understand the business, and I’m making crazy claims based in a fantasy. To those people I have this to say: That is the point.
The Take My Money, HBO movement may be a failure from the standpoint that HBO will most certainly not take your money in exchange for cutting its ties to the cable company. But it’s a raging success because guess what? People believe in the idea, and ideas are much more powerful than institutions.
Oh and also, in another 10 years I have a feeling kids will have no idea what “TV” is. So best to start saying Web-a-vision or Internetsplosion or Joyous-Viewing-Device now, you know, before anyone else knew it was cool.