Is It Really Big News That TV Folks Have Discovered The Internet?

from the only-if-to-note-that-it-sure-took-them-long-enough dept

A few weeks ago, there was a lot of buzz around Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, a short series of internet video, created by director Joss Whedon, and using a few well-known actors. We had a ton of people submit it, and the press went nuts over it. While I actually enjoyed the videos, I had a difficult time understanding why this was big news. Plenty of people create online videos — some more professional than others. About the only thing that could be said for the story was “A few TV people discover the internet… years after everyone else.”

And yet, now we’re seeing more stories along those lines. The NY Times notes how a bunch of Saturday Night Live writers and cast members spent the summer creating their own comedy short video as well, and the story is basically the same: TV people discover the internet. In both cases, the push wasn’t that “hey, the internet is actually a good platform for video” but the silly writers’ strike had them bored, so they focused on creating stuff for the internet.

Again, I’m not entirely sure why this is seen as a big deal. TV people recognize what plenty of others have recognized for years, and it’s suddenly newsworthy? If anything, the news peg here is that it sure has taken these TV folks a long time to realize that producing content for the internet makes sense.

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Comments on “Is It Really Big News That TV Folks Have Discovered The Internet?”

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Paul Watson (profile) says:

News Reporters discover the internet and find that some TV Folks are already there

In this case I think it’s more a case of the news reporters that you link to discovering the internet long after everyone else.

Joss Whedon has been producing internet video since at least 2005 (such as the “R. Tam Sessions” he created as an internet-only spin-off for Firefly/Serenity ). OK, that’s only 3 years ago, but…

Hellslam says:

“A few TV people discover the internet… years after everyone else.”

That is the big deal, sort of. When those few people have the ability to shape the entertainment landscape, even a little bit, then their actions are slightly more newsworthy than your average YouTube phenom.

Using the internet as the medium for their art also blurs the line more between those two most popular time wasters, and legitimizes web content more to those few who have not yet embraced the internet fully. Most notably Hollywood producers who see the internet as the enemy, and not a tool.

Chris says:

Missing the mark?

Think this is more about the creative work of Joss than it is about “discovering the Internet”. The Buffy episode “Once more with feeling” went over big with fans. Think folks just see this as an extension of that work. As mentioned above, Joss has been doing Internet only stuff for a while. Before that he leveraged the Internet to connect to fans. Think he’s known its here for a while now. 😉
Of course it could be the news media is just figuring out the Internet is here. That would be no surprise.

mike says:

I thought the story was..

I was under the impression that this was the first time Whedon was releasing television content on the internet *for sale*. Sure, internet TV has been around for a while, but the idea here was to create something unique and original while bypassing the standard distribution methods.

..And, last I heard one week after release, Whedon had not yet made up the money invested in the production. It had a ton of hype, but very little direct sales.

So, while internet distribution exists, the take-home from the experience would indicate that it is not yet mature enough to make a profit. We can probably expect a few more stories like this one over the next few years as other attempts are made to test the waters of the medium.

JPong says:

Re: I thought the story was..

Yes, I heard somewhere that this was more of an experiment for him to see what the potential of the internet could be. I am not sure what his expenses were on this but he was the number 1 downloaded T.V. series on iTunes for 3 weeks or something like that. I know I paid for it, despite it being free at Hulu.

I also know people that pirated it, because Hulu wouldn’t let them see it and they couldn’t purchase it without a credit card.

I would be interested in seeing how much Whedon actually spent on it though and its download numbers.

Chet Kuhn (profile) says:

I think you missed the story on this one.

Michael, I generally agree whole-heartedly with nearly everything that you post here on Techdirt, and subscribed to the feed in large part due to your efforts. But on this one, I think you missed the larger story, which mike and Jpong touched on in their posts.

The interesting thing about this uproar over Dr. Horrible isn’t that somebody created content for the internet, it’s that ‘professional Hollywood people’ created GREAT content specifically for the internet. Most content created for the internet so far has either been A) replayed from TV skits, B) not professionally done with this type of budget and professionalism, and/or C) not really that great. This content meets all 3 criteria, and that’s really where the WOW factor comes in.

The rest of the story lies in the economic model, and whether we can look forward to seeing more of this type of production. Is Whedon able to make money on this? Or even leverage the exposure to create another business venture that makes money? If not, Dr. Horrible may sound the death toll for great, professional, internet-only content for quite a while longer…

Paul Watson (profile) says:

Re: I think you missed the story on this one.

Chet – I think you’re right about what the real story is here.

With regards to the economic model, I think a massive mistake has been made – by restricting the freebie stuff to a geographic region (US-only), the people behind this venture have fundamentally misunderstood the intrinsically global (I’m tempted to use the William Gibson phrase “post-geographic”) nature of the net.

And this is where I think such experiments will fail – as long as the old media content-producers keep trying to force their view of the world (i.e. as a number of geographically-defined distinct/separate markets, where they can set different price-points/licenses in different geographic areas) onto a global network like the internet then they’re working against their potential customers.

b!X (user link) says:

Paul, the people behind this venture DIDN’T restrict the freebie stuff to a geographic reason. There were technical glitches at launch that geographically hobbled the Hulu stream (then fixed by Hulu’s coders staying up all night to do so), and the iTunes issue, which continues, is predicated entirely upon the fact that the different iTunes markets have different hoops and requirements — something massive conglomerates with armies of lawyers and technicians can jump with ease, but something a crew this size has to work towards one agonizing step at a time.

But there was no “we’re doing this US-only” decision made about this project.

Paul Watson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hi b!x

“There were technical glitches at launch that geographically hobbled the Hulu stream (then fixed by Hulu’s coders staying up all night to do so)”

The Hulu stream is still hobbled – it shows a message saying “We’re sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States”.

There’s a link to find out more, which leads to an FAQ answer saying:

“For now, Hulu is a U.S. service only. That said, our intention is to make Hulu’s growing content lineup available worldwide. This requires clearing the rights for each show or film in each specific geography and will take time. We’re encouraged by how many content providers have already been working along these lines so that their programs can be available over the Internet to a much larger, global audience. The Hulu team is committed to making great programming available across the globe.”

So the problem is definitely Old Media “rights/distribution” issues – albeit the fault of teams of lawyers representing old media companies that have crippled Hulu to force them to fit their old view of the world, rather than a specific decision by Whedon & Co.

John says:

As one of the people who did submit this story, I thought that it would be interesting to follow because a) Joss Wheldon has a cult following from Buffy and b) the reactions from the media would be interesting to follow as well. I really think that TV is still a valuable medium. I like the idea of having an online broadcast window leading into a DVD release a week later. Why a week later? To gauge interest and build momentum. It seems in the past years that TV showrunners have gained a lot more notoriety. Joss Wheldon, JJ Abrams, Ronald Moore, Ricky Gervais, and Josh Schwartz are just some of the showrunners who have a fanbase that really follows their every move. They could on the cheap find solid no-name actors and start production companies that utilize DVD sales as the key revenue stream. I could even see it becoming a minor leagues for TV shows, with internet shows getting promoted.

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