When the content moves faster than the deals

I dreamed a dream of increased ratings for Americas Got Talent

I dreamed a dream of increased ratings for America's Got Talent

No one really knows how to make a viral hit (though my buddy Freddie has some great ideas), but worse, big media Hollywood is ill-equipped to make money off viral hits when they occur.

A disagreement between YouTube and Britain’s ITV, which owns the “Britain’s Got Talent” program where Ms. Boyle appeared, has kept the YouTube clips of Ms. Boyle’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” free of ads. The Times of London published what it called a “crude estimate” suggesting that the parties involved, namely YouTube, Simon Cowell and ITV, have left $1.87 million on the table. (NY Times)

Yep, that’s right, the agents and executives whose job it is to monetize content couldn’t move fast enough to make money off this whole thing as it gained stellar popularity. It’s true, deals take time to hammer out and it’s important to make sure everyone gets their due. But the Hollywood bureaucracy as it exists today is too big and slow to properly monetize web video. There are too many steps in the process to make anything happen.

The eventual model for web TV will have to include multiple platforms, since pretty soon no one platform will have enough viewership to garner good money from the ad market. But if content on multiple platforms is going to make money, we have to get rid of the numerous middle men who all (rightfully) need to get paid. I’m not talking about complete vertical integration of all distribution portals. But on a project-by-project basis, the only way to get significant revenue is by monetizing all the mediums on which your content airs.

This was yet another missed opportunity with the whole Boyle thing, as NBCU, which airs America’s Got Talent, did not get the chance to add her performance to the narrative cache around their show. Her first US television appearances were on ABC, then CBS (twice!), and then finally NBC caught up (but still without mention of America’s Got Talent).

What went wrong here? Well, Britain’s Got Talent is actually the original show, produced by ITV in the UK; its format is licensed to NBCU for America’s Got Talent. So technically Boyle wasn’t a part of the AGT world, since the two shows are made by different production companies. Any preference given to NBC by ITV would be merely out of the goodness of their hearts, and who would blame them for going for the most cash instead of loyalty to a show that isn’t really related to them?

The solution: own everything. Let’s say the show was “You’ve Got Talent.” It takes place mostly on the web, with weekly TV episodes for the big competitions in front of live audiences. You distribute it on TV channels around the world, or on VOD around the world, and you put it online. TV stations sell ads around the shows. You sell ads within the content and on your website. That way when the next never-been-kissed British woman makes Simon Cowell cry, you’ve got it covered on every angle.

Notice I didn’t say you have to own the TV stations and the fiber optic cables to carry the signals and the marketing firm to publicize. This isn’t about oil-baron-style monopolies; in fact, the whole point is that companies that are too diversified have too much red tape to make these deals happen. The independent producer just has to own the content (using Creative Commons licenses, of course!) and distribute it widely and quickly.

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