in General, Tech

Pay per DVD?

Via Slashdot:
Fans attempting to pay for another season of Enterprise

I don’t think this will work, personally. I mean theoretically it could, but even if the money were raised there are host of other issues. Who has ownership rights? Do fans get to write scripts? Who gets money from DVD sales and rebroadcast rights? etc.

Instead, I propose a system I’ve been thinking about ever since Firefly was cancelled after just 13 episodes (the greatest injustice in tv in recent years).

Basically it would be direct to consumers. Putting aside any issues of whether or not Enterprise should be renewed, bear with me. Apparently Enterprise costs about $1.6 million per episode, and has been averaging about 3 million viewers per episode. So Paramount makes an episode for that price. Distribute it in any number of non-TV sales: DVDs, internet downloads (bittorrent could even absorb bandwidth costs), etc. Charge, say, $3 an episode. Let’s assume $1 of that goes towards overhead and distribution costs. Assuming the 3 million viewers partake, that’s still $6 million left over, a profit of more than $4 million per episode. And that’s without any advertising or taking into account foreign viewers. For even more revenue, older episodes could be sold into syndication on TV. Unlike the current ‘fans pay for Enterprise’ scheme, rights are less complicated and stay with the studio.

And not every show costs that much to make, either. If I remember correctly, Firefly was in the neighborhood of $1 million per episode or less.

Granted I pulled most of the numbers out of thin air. But I think the concept is sound.

Now this is all assuming a known show; something people know they will enjoy enough to spend their hard-earned money on. The trick for a new show following this model is to get known.

So every few months, you have Pilot Week on broadcast TV. New stuff is shown, you get to decide what looks worthwhile to pick up in stores or download. Or send out sampler DVDs in the mail or put pilots online. There are tons of more creative methods too, I’m sure.

DVDs and internet downloads are the preferred methods of content distribution right now. Going back to Firefly once more, the DVD sales have been huge despite cancellation. How huge? A major motion picture continuing the show’s story is due out in September as a direct result.

People are willing to pay for quality content. I think HBO has proved that for years now. The system could work for sci-fi shows in particular, as fans tend to be both more rabid and tech-savvy.

This all seems so obvious to me, to the point that I’m astonished nobody has tried it already. Is there some fatal flaw I’m overlooking?