The talk of capital chasing film and TV writers to the web is exciting. It signals an ever-increasing wave of talent gravitating towards the open medium (with minds to monetize it) where they’ll be free to license and distribute work in the most suitable ways for the content and its creators, and, in turn, an online media environment with more eyeballs and a market ripe for new and innovative entertainment products.
This is not, however unfortunate, the death-rattle of big media. Trends are changing, people are spending more time in front of their computers and less time in front of their TVs. For an online world with ever-richer experiences, this makes sense, but there is still one major impediment to the complete hegemony of internet-tv: the last mile.
The lean-back experience of browsing television channels with a Time-Warner remote control is still far easier than on a PC browser. Nobody uses AppleTV. Joost has very little content, and it’s too closed. Even VeohTV and Miro, both of which have proclaimed utmost openess, are cumbersome, difficult to use, and lacking a critical mass of quality content. As long as traditional television remains a superior experience for long-form entertainment–and it will be for a while–the studio system as we know it will remain a predominant provider of in-home entertainment.
This does, however, present an increased opportunity for hybrid products like those created by Next New Networks which are actually designed to be consumed in an active environment. The entertainment product becomes more than the videos themselves; it’s a multi-dimensional experience that links communities through various interactive elements…in addition to video.
The dispute between studios and writers is over the distribution of revenues realized from broadband video distribution. But lets be honest, the accounting practices suggested by the WGA would require “restructuring the fundamental financial model of the commercial production business” with micro-accounting that seems highly improbable. Instead, the WGA should focus on negotiating fair rates for the economic system that has emerged on the true open market of internet-tv: work for hire. It’s the same model that works for almost every other creative profession, from architects to painters to photographers.
So should Hollywood writers ditch TV for startup capital? Only those seeking to create interactive entertainment specifically for the browser-based web. For those more comfortable within the confines of linear television, big media might just present another opportunity…if writers and studios are willing to negotiate reasonable accounting methods.