There certainly can’t be a bigger tent than online video, for good and bad. You can get anything there. Its biggest category, which happens to be pornography, doesn’t even get mentioned in the discussion. Whereas apps for pre-school video channels are a growth business that prompt a million people to tell you how kids “just get it” from the time they are born. True, but boring.
So today, simultaneously (almost), I’m thinking about Paula Deen starting her own online video service and thinking about the happy success of Epic Rap Battles, which is the kind of small, brilliant video that attracts millions and millions of viewers but still misses the radar of the Big World Out There tastemakers.
Joel Espelien, the fun and thoughtful senior advsor at The Diffusion Group, began a recent post like this: Combing through recent news, I came across the announcement from a few weeks back that Paula Deen – erstwhile Food Network celebrity chef known for her Southern cooking and occasional racist comments – is returning to work this September with a new subscription OTT service called “The Paula Deen Network.”
He says that this so-called “network” is a brilliant move” and the evidence is all there. While Paula slathered lard on other fat stuff for Food Network, you had to be there or DVR it. Now, she is available anytime. That’s good news for you, the viewer and your cardiologist.
Espelien points out about Miss Deen: “Despite her difficulties in 2013, she has an extremely strong brand and pretty much owns the female Southern cooking niche. What’s interesting is how incredibly normal this has become. Without question, we are in the midst of the most favorable environment for famous people in human history. Athletes (not teams) have their own fans. Individual world leaders (not governments) can touch millions with a single Tweet. We even have an entire family – the Kardashians – who are famous purely for being famous, without any association whatsoever with any recognizable institution or organization. This may seem obvious, cliché even, but it creates some real problems for the TV industry (as well as other organizations).”
Oh, I don’t know about a problem. A problem is just an opportunity that has been left unexploited. It seems the star-making sausage machine conveyor belt has gotten shifted around a little, true, but the eternal truths still remain: You will still never go broke underestimating the American public and as an example, witness the TV, radio and now online success of Glenn Beck, whose success depends largely on the fact that there is nothing low enough to bother him. The whole earth is his platform, from the gutter up. Beck and the Kardashians are success stories of big TV and omnivorous online video, and Paula Deen will meet them soon.
Others await: Tri bune owned TV stations are apparently coming to the conclusion that they can attain a 1.8 rating without NBC Universal-syndicated talk shows from Jerry Springer, Maury Povich and that bouncer guy, Wilkos or something. They are, no doubt prepping their next careers as online sensations, where an tiny rating trumps none at all and will keep you going for a while.
We are our own brands, as Espelien is noting, true enough, and there’s room for everybody. The Internet has a low bar for entry, which is its problem, though certainly that’s not the way Paula Deen is seeing it.