2009-05-10 ethics chat

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<draz> wondering a little what percentage of American activism is devoted to saving TV shows.
<draz> I mean, every show that is in danger has a "Save ______ Campaign!"
<draz> and they send various objects to the studios.
<draz> maybe not every, but a lot.
<draz> too many to have it mean anything anymore!


<TheWoozle> There ought to be a way for fans of a TV show to take over the show's funding -- I mean, if a show has a million fans, and they could cough up enough to keep the show running (e.g. consider the Star Trek fan who has produced his own continuation of the show entirely out of his own pocket), then they could do that -- and get a share of the profits, if anyone outside that fanbase also likes it.
<TheWoozle> I picture InstaGov being used to accomplish stuff like that.
<drazahoib> well...
<drazahoib> I think there are models which are basically that.
<TheWoozle> So people are doing this? Or it has just been talked about?
<drazahoib> I mean more the Doctor Horrible thing!
<TheWoozle> Ah.
<TheWoozle> That was partly fan-funded?
<drazahoib> but..the problem is that there are production costs plus costs to get things to whichever medium you are trying to get it to.
<drazahoib> well, fan purchased?
<drazahoib> after they got it for free.
<TheWoozle> Well, right, but at some point you know what the total budget is going to be, in order to make it happen.
<TheWoozle> Especially if the show has been running for a few years already.
<drazahoib> but...I mean, basically it would work to have the only way to see it is to purchase an episode!
<drazahoib> the fans would be paying for it.
<TheWoozle> (Dr. Horrible: The wikipedia entry doesn't go into the funding model much, except to mention that "The writing team penned the musical during the WGA writers' strike. The idea was to create something small and inexpensive, yet professionally done, in a way that would circumvent the issues that were being protested during the strike.[1][2] On October 31, 2008, Time magazine named it #15 in Time's Top 50 Inventions of 2008.")
<TheWoozle> The pay-for-the-show-by-buying-each-episode model still requires someone to finance the thing up front, as in Dr. Horrible.
<drazahoib> ah, yeah.
<drazahoib> people wouldn't pay for something that doesn't exist yet either, though.
<drazahoib> they might pay for it if it's a big name.
<drazahoib> Joss Whedon could say "give me some money and I'll give you a new show!" he'd possibly get it.
<TheWoozle> I'm proposing that a show which is about to be cancelled but nonetheless has a large fanbase could be "rescued" by collective action of the fans -- *if* they had a way to coordinate tightly enough.
* drazahoib nods!
<drazahoib> yeah, that makes sense.
<TheWoozle> And, yeah, producers with their own fanbase could probably obtain similar results for brand new ideas.
<drazahoib> but they would probably have to move to something cheaper than TV.
<TheWoozle> Not necessarily.
<TheWoozle> The fans ultimately did pay for Dr.H, and that was just by purchasing DVDs/downloads -- a relatively low level of investment.
<drazahoib> it could be like...Friday Night Lights. which DirecTV helps pay for, and that keeps it profitable for the network.
<TheWoozle> Dr. H was clearly a TV-quality production.
<drazahoib> but instead of DirecTV it would be fans.
<drazahoib> and thinking about it that way it's a much easier task!
<TheWoozle> It probably comes down to whether the network would see broadcast of the show as a *draw*, and be willing to pay something for the right to show it, or whether they'd see it as a drain, and want extra money to broadcast it.
<TheWoozle> Probably at this point, TV is no longer necessary as a way of reaching an audience.
<drazahoib> there are surprisingly few people watching online.
<TheWoozle> Enough that Dr. Horrible paid all its bills and its actors.
<drazahoib> or, at least surprisingly low amounts of money being spent on advertising for online stuff.
<TheWoozle> In other words, I think it made money.
<drazahoib> it did!
<drazahoib> it was profitable.
<TheWoozle> And it was a one-off, a new thing.
<TheWoozle> If it became regular, there would be more audience.
<TheWoozle> (Not necessarily more Dr. H, just more stuff being released that way.)
<TheWoozle> People would say "let's see what's on Hulu" rather than turning on the TV.
* drazahoib nods!
<TheWoozle> So I think we can take Dr. H. as a kind of baseline, for a well-produced piece by a well-liked producer.
<TheWoozle> And the numbers will probably be similar or better for an already-popular show.
<TheWoozle> Maybe they would move the show off TV and onto the internet; it doesn't really matter -- whatever works financially and logistically.
<TheWoozle> The point is to keep the money coming in, so that the existing crew, cast, sets, etc. don't go off to other projects / get scrapped / etc.
* drazahoib nods!
<TheWoozle> It would have to have the cooperation of whoever has the rights to the franchise.
<TheWoozle> Or, rather, it would have to have the active cooperation of whoever really created the show, and the franchise-owner would have to be persuaded that it was a good idea (i.e. profitable).
<drazahoib> would still generate less money than profitable network TV shows!
<TheWoozle> Frinstance... Paramount is being really stupid about Star Trek: The New Voyages. They should be offering those guys an internet/DVD syndication deal of some kind.
<drazahoib> those really do make a lot, I htink.
<drazahoib> that's the fan thing?
<TheWoozle> Well, TV shows make most of their money off advertising... at least traditionally...
<TheWoozle> (Yeah, ST:TNV is the fan-funded/produced 4th & 5th season of Classic Trek.)
<drazahoib> I don't get why the DVD market isn't booming.
<drazahoib> I mean...
<drazahoib> if you buy a DVD you don't have to wait week to week and you can watch it when you want and not when it's on.
<TheWoozle> I think it must be; these days, we see popular TV shows in the DVD/Blu-Ray bins at Costco before we have a chance to watch them on the TiVo.
<drazahoib> but...I guess because people want to be up on events?
<TheWoozle> So yeah, I think DVD sales are at least supplementing advertising revenue. I don't know if that means that TV shows now have larger budgets, that TV execs are just making more money, or what.
<drazahoib> if they released DVDs at the same time as they started airing the shows there would be more DVD sales.
<TheWoozle> One more good reason for people to do this -- to find out what the numbers really are. I suspect we're being culturally ripped-off -- money which could be funding new, better productions is going into the pockets of TV execs, intellectual property lawyers, and other leeches.
<drazahoib> oh, it certainly is.
<TheWoozle> I mean, a huge chunk of it. Maybe more than half.
<drazahoib> but also advertising television shows on television.
<drazahoib> is very expensive.
<TheWoozle> Yes, but that's an internal cost; it's not real money.
<drazahoib> if it's on your network.
<TheWoozle> It just means giving up a certain amount of ad revenue from the ads you don't broadcast during that time.
<TheWoozle> And they only advertise elsewhere if they think it will pay -- revenues from additional viewership will significantly outweigh the cost of the advertising.
<TheWoozle> You can make a lot *more* money, in the end, if you have not just a good show but a lot of money to blow up-front on advertising, yes.
<drazahoib> see, but it's too bad that I couldn't do a thing...if I were to want to make an internet TV series...
<TheWoozle> So one goal of cooperatively-financed programming would be to build up some reserves for future projects.
<drazahoib> where I'd be able to use the audience in any way to get me started.
<drazahoib> unless it was future project reserves, I guess.
<TheWoozle> (In case it isn't clear, I see this as a profit-making enterprise -- anyone who chunks in $10 up-front should get that money back, if the show makes money, plus an appropriate portion of the net profits.)
<drazahoib> but I am hoping for the future of high quality shows produced by random groups of people across the country.
<drazahoib> so, a loan?
<drazahoib> or investment?
<TheWoozle> An investment.
<TheWoozle> If there were a pre-existing mechanism by which any random group could quickly raise capital, though, I think we'd see a lot more such productions.
<TheWoozle> David Bowie started selling stock in his future earnings sometime in the 1990s, iirc
<TheWoozle> It would be something like that.