Commentary

Making My VOD Move Early

Not wanting to be the last media entity to jump on the VOD bandwagon, I have decided to make video from my home and vacation library available on demand.

I figure (kinda like Warner Brothers' ancient TV shows) that there isn't much of a market for this crap anyway, so I might as well make a buck before consumers wake up and realize that the vast wasteland isn't restricted to the idiot box. But first, I have to refine my business model. Should I charge a flat fee per download? Will viewers of the Mites hockey game between New Canaan and Bridgeport, which runs about 40 minutes (with a bathroom time-out and two cry-because-I-fell-down-hard time-outs) get a better value than buyers of the shorter East School Talent Show lip synch, which lasts a merciful two minutes? Once and for all, does length really matter?

Some of my content is perfect for advertisers since the audience will, by self-selection, be enthusiasts of the featured tape. For example, I could see some Hallmark pre-roll just before the birthday parties at the amusement centers. Or maybe a quick cut-away to a Band-Aids commercial right before TJ holds up that sand shark he caught in the Cape Fear River. The footage we shot of the burned-up electrical panel at the pool for the insurance claim could be preceded by somebody selling lightning rod systems for your house. I mean, the possibilities are endless, and I can promise audience composition second to none. Kind of like the sell for those niche magazines: small circ, but loyal and heavily "engaged."

I have to check with my lawyer about rights management. I'm not really sure if I have the perpetual rights to the images of the puppies we shot when the kids picked out Emma, the neurotic black Lab. Or maybe I can avoid the whole problem and just do a rev share with the breeder. I'm pretty sure I own the rights to Emma chewing up the sofa, chewing up TJ's $125 Nikes, and chewing up Anna's school project on Native Americans. But just to be safe, I will check with Emma's agent.

Unlike SOME networks, I am not restricting downloads to iPods. As long as you pay for them, I don't care if you put them on your old eight tracks or BetaMax tapes. Also, unlike the rest of the-front-room-ONLY-at-Michael's crowd, I couldn't care less if you toss them up on file-sharing services or e-mail 'em to your Aunt Patootie in Calabasas. What I'm all about is helping consumers choose when and what they want to watch. Hey, what kind of 20th-century bozo would I have to be to expect audiences to show up every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. to see TJ and Anna's most recent piano recital? I want to empower customers with choice. Why should I foist MY programming preference on you, when you might rather be in a mood to see Grandma's last visit, or 15 years of Xmas mornings?

In order to drive traffic to my on-demand offerings, I'm buying up keywords that will assure lots of eyeballs. For example, if you Google "naked teen girls" you'll get a link to the highlights of Will's lacrosse game against Wilton. If you enter "lonely available housewives," you'll get a link to Halloween trick-or-treaters from 2003 and 2004. I'm also embedding my download site with lots of keywords so that I will rank up high on blog searches. For example, in tiny, nearly unreadable print at the bottom of the page I have the words "free porn" repeated about 1,300 times. I used WordArt to make it look like a snowman, so I don't freak out my site visitors.

Man, I thought fraudulent offerings on eBay were a goldmine. On-demand video is even more promising.