Your Company is a TV Show

January 02, 2012

I’ve been watching and buying a lot of video on the Apple TV over the holidays and musing on the convergence of web company creation infrastructure with video production. An app on my iPhone and a video program on my AppleTV are increasingly looking like two sides of the same coin to me and as I worked my way upstream from that thought, incubators like Y Combinator quickly become the Endemols or Bad Robots of our web world. I’m just not sure that building a consumer internet company is too different from launching a video franchise anymore.

Bad Robot

I don’t have any numerical proof of this but I will bet the total gross of an average video franchise over its lifetime is still significantly better than the total revenue of the average Silicon Valley start-up over its life. We can take out the statistical anomolies in both industries — Harry Potter and Google don’t count — but I think we could do worse as an industry than to aspire to building a similar scale of company building infrastructure as exists in video production. And vice versa I might add, I’m not sure video producers are iterating through business models as fast or creatively as internet incubators. We each have a lot to learn.

I realize the convergence of Silicon Valley and Hollywood isn’t even close to a new idea and am not professing to any huge novelty here. Plus, I can torture a metaphor with the best of them and won’t take this one any further. But I do think the two industries are learning from the other as technology, video distribution and platform wars change the dynamics of launching a consumer facing web company or a video franchise. And of course, increasingly Apple and Google are in the middle of both.

Wired 2.11

Lots of interesting reading on the subject recently, it’s a nascent subject for me that I’m just digging into (mostly trying to better understand the television production side of things). A few suggested links:

  • PBS Takes On The Premium Channels - The success of shows like Downton Abbey along with the cuts in federal funding is causing PBS to increasingly fight against the premium networks for dollars. Needless to say, this is a good thing. And Downton Abbey is a wonderful show, watch it if you haven’t already.
  • In Speaking for TLC, the Least Said Is Best - A fun look at the day-to-day grind of reality TV. We’ve known for awhile that editors have replaced writers as the creators of the story arc but I hadn’t realized to what extent you’re only as good as your PR person. Influence is the name of the game whether on the web or TV. And if your social media outreach folks have it hard, ask them to watch Sarah Palin’s kids while she camps with Kate Gosselin.
  • Why the Winter TV Hiatus Makes No Sense - Jeff Alexander writes about the missed opportunity that continues to be the network television production schedule. Renée and I spent New Year’s Eve downloading and watching season 1 of Portlandia, which rocked a whole lot more than anything Dick Clark has done in decades. Yesterday we started watching Breaking Bad. I’m happy for the hiatus from my other television shows but my Apple TV has been seing a lot more use as a result.
  • I am done with the Freemium Business Model - Yet another web developer realizing that free costs money. Free is just another cost of customer acquisition model that doesn’t make sense for everyone. I read this story through the eyes of a video content creator and wonder when we’ll hit a point that pay revenue can completely fund video programming. Would I pay more to see a less censored version of Breaking Bad? Easily, but there’s probably not enough of me yet to finance something like that. But I hope we’re not far off either.


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