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Just give it to them, and collapsing mediums
August 24, 2013 8:47 AM   Subscribe


 
It helps that House of Cards was is good as it is. I'm not really sure that the availability all at once was the major issue. Also, Spacey pronounces "gif" with a soft 'g'.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:00 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was a great speech but I can't help but think that in the shouting match that is this debate, money will always be louder than reason.
posted by ~Bert at 9:04 AM on August 24, 2013


My dream is that David Lynch makes a Netflix original series at some point. It would probably, finally, be the sort of format that he's been trying to find in TV for the past 30 years or so.
posted by codacorolla at 9:06 AM on August 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Heh. I noticed that too, Obscure Reference. This video is great, just spot-on. I see it with Orange is The New Black, and definitely with Breaking Bad. I've got friends who are catching up on these shows and because we all have control over that process, we get to talk about it. We get to experience it together, fitted into our busy lives, varying schedules and differing budgets and setups. That is the takeway, infinitely more important or valuable than the controversy over how we get that content (i.e., piracy).
posted by iamkimiam at 9:08 AM on August 24, 2013


He's always had the gift of a slightly smug projection when he smiles. And when he stands to gain a lot from pushing this barrow attached to his own project, I can see how that smiling affectation doesn't just belong to some of his acting characters. He stands to profit from being outspoken in his support for this idea. I'm not saying it's self-serving necessarily, but perhaps the idea would benefit more from someone less tied to the money involved?
posted by peacay at 9:08 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's funny about Orange/Black and Breaking Bad...I watched Orange/Black in like three sittings, and many of the last Breaking Bad seasons in short bursts. Now I'm watching Breaking Bad as it comes on, and holy SHIT is it frustrating. As I was watching the earlier seasons, I used to say to my then partner "wow, imagine if we couldn't just watch the next one right away? It would suck to have to wait a week to find out." Now I have to, and it does.

That being said, I don't know which would make more money for whatever media outlet is getting the show to me...I don't have AMC at home, but I've happened to be at work (at a tv studio, with cable) or visiting someone who does have it so I've been able to see it as it happened, with commercials. And as we all know, it's all about whatever will keep the most executives paid the most...
posted by nevercalm at 9:18 AM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


He stands to profit from being outspoken in his support for this idea. I'm not saying it's self-serving necessarily, but perhaps the idea would benefit more from someone less tied to the money involved?

Well, no. This speech at a TV industry event was necessarily about the intersection of, as he says, "commerce and art." The idea can only benefit more if more TV industry people buy into the notion of giving up control to the users.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:22 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I sure feel like one advantage of a netflix (disc) subscription is that I can binge-watch a new season of a show once it comes out. The only thing better than that is waiting for the whole series to end and binge watching the whole thing.
posted by jepler at 9:25 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the bit about how netflix looked at the data and decided they didn't need a pilot is even more interesting. Obviously they know their viewers like Kevin Spacey, David Fincher and the BBS House of cards so they could predict the number of views.

I wonder what kind of monstrosities data analysis could create. "Got some interesting data here guys. Viewers like Sharknado, Tommy Wiseau, and Blak Books." Let's get Tommy in here to talk about a series with a misanthrope book seller who battles high winds and sharks"
posted by Ad hominem at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I liked the BBS House of Cards, but after a while I got tired of the blocky ASCII art graphics, beepy sounds and the fact it was tying up my phone line the whole time I was watching.
posted by ambrosen at 9:35 AM on August 24, 2013 [26 favorites]


I really like the whole-season-at-once format, and have enjoyed the hell out of Arrested Development and, to a lesser extent, House of Cards. I also think it would be a perfect format for certain literary adaptations. I'm thinking Infinite Jest here.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:36 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I liked the BBS House of Cards

Yeah I saw that after the edit window closed.

Like post-its, I think it is a great idea hit on by accident. Anyone want to do an ASCII House Of Cards, Downton Abbey or better yet an ACSII Bleak House?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:40 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good timing, today is my very first binge-on-a-non-network production (I worked through the Soprano years without cable), and it's House of Cards. I have tons of laundry to do so I have a good excuse.

I have always enjoyed the anticipation between episodes that are spaced a week (or even a season) apart. I am only on episode two and so far I only feel sad that none of these people seem to have any friends.
posted by headnsouth at 10:10 AM on August 24, 2013


Also, Spacey pronounces "gif" with a soft 'g'.

I was more caught by the way he pronounced "peanuts". If I hadn't been paying attention, I think the phrase "I just can't stop eating peanuts" would have been interpreted... shall we say... "differently".
posted by fishmasta at 10:18 AM on August 24, 2013


I was more caught by the way he pronounced "peanuts". If I hadn't been paying attention, I think the phrase "I just can't stop eating peanuts" would have been interpreted... shall we say... "differently".

Oh come on, don't leave us hanging.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 10:24 AM on August 24, 2013


Really don't understand you people saying it sucks to wait a week for the next installment. It feels fantastic. It's exciting. It creates the air of anticipation and forces you to mull over what you've seen. That these kids today sit there and watch like an entire series of a TV show in one sitting like some sort of lifeless derelict crack addict is a totally despairing thing.

Awful. The slow drip is so much better than having everything all at once.

And hey, only like 36 hours until the next Breaking Bad!
posted by xmutex at 10:30 AM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


ASCII Downton Abbey, everyone's favourite BBS show, contrasts the lives of the shouty artistocratic capitals with their downtrodden lowercase servants. The first season begins with news of a far-off disk error, causing a common hyphen to inherit the entire charset! Meanwhile, an exotic ~ comes to visit but backspaces unexpectedly, while everyone's favourite lowercase b is framed for a typo (but escapes in a horse-drawn carriage return). The second season focusses on the illicit romance between an uppercase Q and a lowercase u, culminating in the birth of their first punctuation mark (surprise - it's parentheses!). At the same time, the charset's problems are multiplied by the appearance of a mysterious asterisk. In the third season, a cabal of sinister control characters try to wrest control of the charset from the printables, while the staunch traditions of ASCII Downton Abbey are increasingly questioned by the brash new standards of Unicode. Can our beloved typographical characters achieve backward compatibility?
posted by oulipian at 10:33 AM on August 24, 2013 [29 favorites]


I binged a season of Breaking Bad at a time until season 5 part 1 came out. Then I went back to watch seasons 1-4 again before starting 5 part 1 on Netflix so that it'd be fresh. Season 5 part 2 is the first time I'm actually watching them as they're released (no cable, so thank God for Amazon). It's very different though. I do have time to ponder what's happened so far and the anticipation is far greater, but I think if I had the choice I'd watch everything at once, have a quick rush of OMGICANTBELIEVETHATJUSTHAPPENED!!!!!, and then rewatch slowly vs. slow being the only option.
posted by fishmasta at 10:37 AM on August 24, 2013


One compromise between 1 episode a week and all at once would be to release a 13-episode season in 3 to 4 installments of 3-4 episodes a few days apart and then the finale.
posted by Gyan at 11:12 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


When he mentioned "Avatar", I automatically assumed he meant the cartoon, and the idea of Kevin Spacey crying into his popcorn over "Tales of Ba Sing Se" makes me smile.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:21 AM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can see the advantages to scheduling your own watching, I do. But I simply detest binge-watching. My own personal nightly schedule is movie, sitcom, drama, and I have multiple series queued up in rotation so I generally have 3-4 days between episodes, and that works pretty well. But bam-bam-bam? Hell, I watch two and they start to blend together, which I imagine is for some the point.

But it isn't like there's some platonic ideal out there and the week is just an arbitrary element introduced by the calendar, so it all comes down to consumer preference and profits, and that points to the Netflix model becoming more common.

I do think it makes it a little harder to do the water-cooler conversation thing. I'm currently just done with Season 3 of Mad Men and reading AV Club and Alan Sepinwall rundowns, and of course there's hardly any point in bringing my own thoughts to the comments at this time. One would be reduced to dropping hinty posts on Facebook. "That creepy smile? Know what I mean, right?" You have to respect other people's spoiler space, after all. But that's not much of a conversation.

So it's almost like this overlap of traditional TV and the internet conversation are starting to conflict to the point that they no longer synergize in the same way (certainly not the same way all those rec.arts.startrek threads went).
posted by dhartung at 11:24 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


My dream is that David Lynch makes a Netflix original series at some point. It would probably, finally, be the sort of format that he's been trying to find in TV for the past 30 years or so.

Two years from now marks the end of Cooper's 25 years trapped in the Black Lodge.

Just sayin'.

I hear Annie's been pretty well too.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, Netflix's model is great for some things – Arrested Development, and I suspect 30-minute comedies in general (I dislike comedies way more when I'm watching them weekly than when I can catch a batch all at once) – but the eager wait between weeks can be terrific, and the Netflix model also gives shows way more leeway to fuck themselves up seven times before release, which is why House of Cards started out great and ended up shitty.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:34 AM on August 24, 2013


Two years from now marks the end of Cooper's 25 years trapped in the Black Lodge.

What kind of animal sacrifice do I need to do to make this happen? Baby owls? Alright no problem.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:32 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really don't understand you people saying it sucks to wait a week for the next installment. It feels fantastic. It's exciting. It creates the air of anticipation and forces you to mull over what you've seen. That these kids today sit there and watch like an entire series of a TV show in one sitting like some sort of lifeless derelict crack addict is a totally despairing thing.

An interesting point, for sure. When I was a kid people lined up to see the next Star Wars movie the way people in the last 5 years have been lining up to get the latest iPhone. The anticipation only applies to stuff one is really dying to see though. One series at a time, and then only half the time, or something like that.

Also, kind of interesting to me, when Battlestar Galactica was on Friday nights, it was this huge thing I just had to jump all over as soon as I could get to it. When they moved it to Sunday it was all kind of ho-hum, I'll get it when I get it. I still watched the show religiously, but that tiny change had a huge impact on the anticipation factor. Of course everything comes out Sundays now.
posted by Chuckles at 12:34 PM on August 24, 2013


You can still watch all-available-at-once shows on a weekly basis at the same time every week if you want.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:57 PM on August 24, 2013


What? I was watching Doctor Who on BBS in the '80s... never got #6's multicolored costume...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:03 PM on August 24, 2013


When he says, "I am not someone with an important job in broadcasting, using this speech to audition for an even more important job in broadcasting" - I don't actually believe him. Never deny something you haven't been accused of.
posted by iotic at 1:28 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Iotic: he is referring to all those other speakers, the ones whose speeches you didn't see highlight reels of because they were people "with an important job in broadcasting, using this speech to audition for an even more important job in broadcasting". Aka boring.
posted by aspo at 2:51 PM on August 24, 2013


Yes I do pretty much get that. It's just, well I'm not sure his speechifying is really so much more elevated for him being famous and all.
posted by iotic at 3:05 PM on August 24, 2013


Spot on. In business school strategy class, one of the key points taught was to constantly ask, "if we were to start again today, what would we do?" and beware of the the desire to apply old thinking to new technology and markets. The struggles of worldwide media markets exemplifies what happens when an industry struggles to apply old thinking to new technology and markets.

Television evolved with a specific interaction with the audience. Lots of manufacturing jobs, with punchcards, where people clocked in and clocked out. It's been said that this was rooted in the training of a populous during wartime. The men were used to regimented living in the Army, and they brought that with them to the suburbs. The television schedule developed around the pace of life, with was the face of nuclear family life.

In September, children returned to school, and they were greeted with new episodes of television shows in the evenings, the new fall season. The season wrapped up around Thanksgiving, when families started traveling, and then broke until after Christmas. The viewer's schedule's were disturbed, and it was useless to spend advertising budgets pushing new content.

Further, it ties in with the fact that content was first produced live, and broadcast immediately. It was difficult – if not impossible – to time-shift. Then it was recorded, but the processes took time – days and weeks. Thus, it was not possible to crank content out quickly.

And over time, technology has evolved, so now, shows can be shot, stored, and then are drip-fed to audiences on a weekly basis.

What the television industry is missing is, not only has technology moved far, far beyond the requirements for a regimented schedule, but so has the populous. Working hours have changed substantially, as the 9-5 has largely atomised into numerous fragments. Regularly-scheduled bowling leagues died. Entertainment options exploded. Restaurants replaced dinner tables. The move toward controlled suburbs was replaced was the revitalisation of spontaneous urban environments.

And now the networks give people choices that seem arbitrary restricted. You can watch Show X on Monday at 10pm, or from Tuesday on our website for free, but only for seven days. After that, you can buy it on Netflix or iTunes. And why have these restrictions evolved? Because the industry's business model is still advertising-based...

Despite the fact that HBO, iTunes, and NetFlex have proven that people are quite happy to pay piecemeal for the content that they want to consume. They don't want networks, they want shows. In the same way they want songs, and not albums. In the same way, they want to live in cities and take public transit, rather than drive around in cars in the suburbs.

Yet the networks are clinging desperately to their high-profit models... to the current power structure to the point where they're driving people to piracy. The Pirate Bay and eztvproxy.net or whatever it is now prove that three dudes in Sweden can revolutionise entertainment with an online catalogue. When people talk about why they pirate, price is never reason. It's convenience, or timing, or geographic availability.

Spacey's right – people have no problem paying for content. But, if they're going to pay for it, they want to consume it in their own way. Imagine Whole Foods only serving chicken sandwiches from 8 - 9pm on Tuesdays. WTF? Why?

And that gets to the real crux of the problem. It used to be that 'content was expensive, and attention was cheap'. Millions of people watching Ed Sullivan. A few channels, and lots of audience. Advertising worked very well. The networks became the networks – they sold the ads, produced the content, and distributed the content.

Now, 'content is cheap, and attention is expensive'. People have so many choices. Television, video games, internet content, ebooks, social networks, etc. And what the networks are desperately trying to hang onto is the model in which content production is more valuable than content distribution, when in reality, power has shifted to the distributor. Thousands of labels feed Apple. Apple feeds iPhones. Thousands of advertisers feed Google. Google feeds YouTube.

Thus, the networks are holding on to the last bastion, which is actively ignoring what consumers want, and what is technically possible. They're suing their customers (which is always bizarre), they're pissing them off, they're lobbying, and they're doing everything except the really simple and most effective thing – as Spacey says, giving people what they want.

Nobody asked the networks to drip feed them content on a weekly basis. Nobody asked the networks to restrict content outside of the US. Nobody asked the networks to make it difficult for the audience to watch. Nobody asked the networks to restrict content in any way. They choose to do it, because they don't want to pay Apple, and they don't want to pay Google. And their audiences are slowly leaving. Finding other things to do, or finding ways to get the content for free. Not because they don't want the content, but because they can have it on their own terms.

Inadvertently, the networks have done the most disastrous thing possible by refusing to give people what they want. They have introduced huge groups of people to the fact they can have the content for free with no commercials. Thus, it is very obvious that the networks don't want to serve the customers, they want control of their audience. What a shit message to send. We could make your lives easier, but we're not going to. You come to us, we don't come to you. The megalomaniacal star-power ego – that ponytailed master of the universe entertainment executive archetype – that is not only unwelcome but now also irrelevant.

Someone is working with a major European telecoms company on trying to reduce the price of data roaming. Currently, very few customers use data roaming. Most consumers turn off data roaming and find wifi. Their point to their bosses is that this is stupid. They are protecting a small but lucrative revenue stream (the business market) and missing the bigger picture. What if we made data roaming double the price of domestic? they said. Domestic is 2p a megabyte/month, so the proposal is a 100% premium of that.

And his point is that, much like Kevin Spacey said, that can be measured in advance. The mobile industry can easily track when a phone goes abroad, and if it is using data or not. Thus, the calculation can be run as to whether 1.05M people using data is more profitable than 50k people using data and 1M not using data. The model has been run, and the answer is obvious...

Yet the mobile networks won't do it for the same reason the television networks won't do it. Because it's not about profit – which it should be – it's about control. A whole industry who loves control, a corporate body that loves that industry having control, and governments that love the corporate bodies.

Whole Foods would not survive if it sold one product in half-hour increments, dictated by the grocery store oligopoly. Stupidly, the networks are still living in the 50s, thinking they can. It's actually really funny to listen to old codgers in old industries complain about the 30-something Silicon Valley billionaires, and the piracy, and the Steve Jobs, and the Chinese pirates, and the kids today (get off my lawn). It's funny because the old codgers are creating the internet billionaires by not hiring them right out of college and giving them latitude to create the new world.

Apple would probably be nothing if the music industry had simply put their entire catalogues online to download unrestricted MP3s. But they didn't, because they were afraid. Not afraid of losing money, but afraid of losing control. So they squeeze and the squeeze and they squeeze and they squeeze... but the only people that they are squeezing is themselves.

Cabbies in London were livid about Hailo when it came. About paying 10% of their fee to a provider. Why should we do that? they said. Many refused to sign up to it. Because they weren't after maximising potential profit, but about maintaining 100% of control over their income stream. Quite a few of us have quadrupled our black cab usage, because Hailo actually solves a very big problem – it gives every black taxi access to a stored credit card. Hailo has become my channel to black cabs 9 out of 10 times, and I use them 4 times as much.

Imagine how much money the television industry could make if they released entire seasons of shows in September, for a fixed price, unrestricted. I could watch an entire season on a flight to San Francisco. My neighbour could watch one episode each morning on his half-hour train ride. What would happen to media consumption and revenue? It would explode.

Moral of the story is don't be the guy who refuses to use Hailo because he refuses to give up control of 10% of the billing, when Hailo is increasing people's taxi spending by 400%.
posted by nickrussell at 3:37 PM on August 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'd defend the historic model from the perspective of the creators rather than the consumers, although the benefits accrue to both sides. Simply put, it's more helpful to gather feedback when there's actually time to act on it. Waiting until the end of the season before finding out whether anything is actually working seems like a recipe for hit-or-miss programming.

This new scheme takes the hermetic feedback mechanisms of 120-minute film sprints and extends them to 13-hour television marathons. Working in a vacuum precludes the possibility of break-out characters or, indeed, any kind or organic development based on dialog with the fans. It reinforces the model of audience as passive consumer.

Here's an example from Breaking Bad. The producers have spoken about their plan during the first season to kill off the character of Jesse Pinkman. If they had simply produced the entire season and then aired the episodes it would have been too late to revisit that decision in light of audience feedback.

When I watch original Netflix programming I can't help but wonder how the stories might have progressed differently if the producers hadn't designed them as ships in a bottle.

In fact, taking the Netflix model to the logical extreme, I can't imagine why they limit their production to a single season at a time. Why produce "seasons" of television when you could produce an entire series all at once? Why not spend six years toiling in obscurity, getting everything just right, and then see whether anyone is still interested in watching your six-seasons-and-a-movie of Hemlock Grove.
posted by Jeff Howard at 11:39 PM on August 24, 2013


AFAIK, for shows like Breaking Bad/GoT/Mad Men, the principal photography is over much before the season airs. It just so happens that the 1st season of BB was interrupted by a writer's strike, and in any case, Gilligan says nothing about audience feedback, but about how "Once they started shooting, Gilligan realized how talented the actor was, and he decided not to kill the character off.".
posted by Gyan at 11:58 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


nickrussell: Yet the mobile networks won't do it for the same reason the television networks won't do it. Because it's not about profit – which it should be – it's about control. A whole industry who loves control, a corporate body that loves that industry having control, and governments that love the corporate bodies.

Hmm, I don't think that is quite right. Yes, it is about control, but the reason it is about control is because they view control as the way to profit. By controlling what show is in what slot, they maximize profit. Have an under-performing show with a particular demographic? You pick your slot carefully, considering who watches then and what your competition is. You might still win your slot and run up some ad revenue. Etc. For music, it is all about timing, and what gets pushed to the radio stations, etc. It is hard to really bump a show or song if people can do whatever the hell they please. So yes, control, but yes it is still about profit.

Interestingly, in TV it is all going to be destroyed by PVR's anyway. One would think with PVR's making it almost impossible to keep people in their seat when you want them too, they would be looking at streaming as a possible way to at least slip in some advertising; advertising that is slipping away. PVR's are becoming ubiquitous; that will likely make streaming with fully on demand services come around.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:50 AM on August 25, 2013


I liked the BBS House of Cards

When it came out, I was all like eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

And then errrrrrrrrrr.

And then sproidoink sproidoink

posted by zippy at 12:31 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]




Working in a vacuum precludes the possibility of break-out characters or, indeed, any kind or organic development based on dialog with the fans. It reinforces the model of audience as passive consumer.

From the transcript of Spacey's speech (this section didn't make it into the edited video):
When the hit series Hill Street Blues was about to premier in 1980, NBC sent an internal memo to writer & show runner Stephen Bochco with a list of their concerns following a focus group testing of the program: “The most prevalent audience reaction indicated that the program was depressing, violent and confusing. Too much was crammed into the story. The main characters were perceived as being not capable and having flawed personalities. Professionally, they were never completely successful in doing their jobs and personally their lives were in a mess. Audiences found the ending unsatisfying. Too many loose ends…” - etc;

In other words, this memo was an entirely unwitting blueprint not only for what made Hill Street Blues such a historic program, but for all the shows that make up this Third Golden Age.

If those executives had had their way the road would have never been paved for The Sopranos, Rescue Me, Weeds, Homeland, Dexter, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Damages, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, The Wire, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and House of Cards.

There's something to be said for letting the creative folks create and trust that they know what they are doing. To be certain, there will be failures - but then again, the current model has a failure rate of 65% (only 35% of the pilots made are being picked up to be series in the last two years, according to the stats in Spacey's speech (and of those, only a small percentage will be renewed)).

What it is about to me is trust - trust in your creative talent to create something interesting and compelling, and trust in the audience to be able to follow complex storylines, plots, and emotional situations. To me, the common thread in these great shows of this current Golden Age of Television is that they don't shy away from complexity and they put some burden on the audience to not only remember what is going on in the show, but also to deal with the moral ambiguity and emotional stakes of the show.

What the audience is demanding is to not be fed crap - give us stories to engage with intellectually and emotionally, and we will engage with a lot of passion. Movies today appeal only "only to the pulse and not to the mind" which is why (I think) we are starting to see problems with blockbuster films.

Creative work is about taking risks; those networks and studios that have been willing to do that have created some wonderful, memorable shows. The networks and studios that aren't are in trouble. How you want to structure your business to handle taking the creative risks is up to you - but given the current penchant for television that is no longer Steady State, I think there might be something to say for releasing a season at a time - you have less risk of the audience missing an episode and becoming out of the loop and disconnected and unable to carry on. They can consume at their own rate, but they won't miss any of the important developments.

The fact that distribution models are changing is, to me, somewhat secondary to this consideration - Breaking Bad is doing just fine with one new episode a week. Arrested Development did fine with releasing its new season all at once. The key is a good story, because that is what will engage people and get them talking. With so many demands on our attention, hearing from others that we know and trust that something is worth our time is the critical piece in the equation - that's what makes me add something to my netflix queue, or make a note to get the DVDs of a show, or to add it to my PVR.
posted by nubs at 4:47 PM on August 28, 2013


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