Tuesday, March 03, 2009

American TV seeks new business models

In The New York Times, Tim Arango explores how US networks are being forced to change their approach.
For decades, the big three, now big four, networks all had the same game plan: spend many millions to develop and produce scripted shows aimed at a mass audience and national advertisers, with a shelf life of years or decades as reruns in syndication.

But that model, based on attracting enough ad dollars to cover the costs of shows like “Lost” and “ER,” no longer appears viable. Network dramas now cost about $3 million an hour.

The future for the networks, it seems, is more low-cost reality shows, more news and talk, and a greater effort to find new revenue streams, whether they be from receiving subscriber fees as cable channels do, or becoming cable networks themselves, an idea that has gained currency.
Meanwhile, also in The New York Times, David Carr explains how Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park, have forged their own new approach to broadcasting.
I stopped by the studio to talk to Mr. Stone because he had some news: the two men and their partner Comedy Central had consummated a deal with Netflix to stream the first nine seasons of “South Park.”

... At a time when newspapers, Hollywood and the network business are struggling to find the future, two goofy guys who put foul words in the mouths of cartoon cutouts seem like visionaries.

Although perhaps the real prophet was their lawyer, Kevin Morris, who struck a deal 12 years ago that gave Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone a 50-50 split with Comedy Central on all non-TV revenue. In 1997, that was no big deal. Ten years later when it was time to renew, it was a very big deal.

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