Television programming is about to change. It is already commonplace to wait, for a show’s season to end, before heading off to the video store for all 4 disks of favourite shows. That is if everything is done legally, and not illegally downloaded.
Now television producers are moving towards the release of all 13 episodes of a season simultaneously, rather than traditional weekly instalments.
Dion Chang in conversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
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Why it’s important
When the home VHS and Beta recorders were released to the public, home viewers immediately recognised their ability to record their favourite shows. Marathon viewing sessions became normal and shortly thereafter, television producers decided to release season collections on tape.
As domestic technology progressed, watching a season at a time became easier and cheaper. DVDs, then digital files and movie downloads arrived on the scene, making it even easier for the average viewer to get their hands on 13 episodes at once. Fans began to wait until the season was complete to watch all the episodes back to back. Viewer ratings dropped off because watchers no longer had to ensure they were in front of the TV on Wednesday night.
Initially, a weekly release encouraged viewership through interpersonal and commercial promotion and this spurred on the advertising sales. Low ratings meant no advertising and that led to no show.
A lack of advertising sales is less of a threat to show producers today. Social media has improved “word of mouth” promotion. An increasing number of people watch TV while tweeting or checking in on Facebook. Show producers no longer get a surge of mouth to mouth advertising once a week; they receive it continuously – and to wider audiences.
Batch release dispenses with the need for advertising sales, and entertainment channels as a whole.
What’s the butterfly effect
It is not only the loss of third party advertising (and the subsequent impact on smaller stations) that is set to change, but also the content. Consider the amount of time spent in an episode rehashing previous events so that any viewer can tune in at any time and know what is happening. If viewers are engaged in a programme over a weekend, or every night of the week, there’s no reason to remind them of what has just occurred, they will have just seen it. Content within individual episodes will need to be fresh and un-repetitive for continued viewer interest.
Episode duration will also become flexible. Without advertising and traditional broadcasters to consider, episodes can have varying lengths instead of the common 22 or 44 minute serials.
On the other hand, the teasers used to induce an audience to stay tuned through a commercial break will need to be restructured. The aim is no longer to bring the viewer back week after week, but to encourage them not to turn off the TV at all.
Netflix, a US based company, streams shows and movies to its paid subscribers. For a flat monthly fee, subscribers can watch any and all shows stored on the Netflix database. Viewers were already able to stream their favourite shows back to back, but Netflix has taken it one step further. On 1 February 2013, they released all 13 episodes of the political drama “House of Cards” simultaneously to their viewers.
The global hot spots?
With Netflix at the forefront of the trend, the United States is the core of the volcano, but other countries that allow Netflix and similar platforms will soon erupt. With the restrictions on the importation of media currently in place in South Africa, it could be some time before South Africans can (legally) partake in the new screening structures of international programmes.