What TV Shows Can Learn From Indie Movies


Some niche, independent movies will never be mass hits; the same can be said for some TV shows. Should producers and networks for non-mass-level shows act like those involved with indie films?

A few independent movies already already know the score -- especially this time of year, as Oscar season starts. Using a more down-to- earth business sense, a number of films  have started video-on-demand at the same time they opened in theaters.

Current indie "Margin Call," distributed by Lionsgate, has pulled in some $4 million in VOD revenues, equaling the amount coming from theater receipts. That's a big deal.

"Margin Call"  and other films made a calculated decision, figuring that big movie theater exhibitors are probably going to pass on their fare anyway -- and surely not go for a deal where the movie would be released theatrically on the same day as on cable operators' VOD services.



The decision to do this seems to run against the true nature of entertainment purveyors -- that any  movie, TV show, musical act  or whatever, is destined for greatness and great approval from a large amount of entertainment consumers.

“There are a lot of films that are not critical darlings and won’t break through to the masses, so [VOD] becomes a great way to get people to see them," Susan Jackson, founder of digital distribution company Freestyle Digital Media, told TheWrap.

Can TV shows learn a lesson here? Sure. But you ask, "With all the platforms for digital video streaming out there, isn't that enough?" Yes and no.

Digital video streaming still brings in microscopic advertising and user fee revenues. VOD, however, has the scale, robustness and perception of traditional TV for consumers. On the other hand, new TV shows seem to need a network to surround them -- both for scheduling and  for marketing.

Still, cable operators have invested a lot money in VOD services and are ready to deal for right stuff. For example, they give film producers 70% of  revenues versus the 50% they get  from theater owners.

For some struggling but critically favorite shows -- "Fringe" on Fox, "Community" on NBC -- you might think that VOD could be an alternative. And what about those canceled ABC  soap operas whose streaming digital deal recently fell through?

It comes down lowering grandiose expectations for money  -- a feat which unfortunately few big-time TV and film producers, as well as performers and support staff, can handle as yet.

2 comments about "What TV Shows Can Learn From Indie Movies".
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  1. Davaughnu Banks from Organic, Inc., December 1, 2011 at 11:32 a.m.

    On a similar note if a show gets canceled off the air why not see if you still have large following from a social standpoint and produce the show for exclusive online (studio site or FB), app content, and/or VOD content. You still have to pay the bills and the actors, but if their is a large enough audience that will pay for a commercial free series to live digitally wouldn't that be an option?

    Maybe the production expense would be to steep, but shows like Jericho and Arrested Development had or have great followings that pushed studios to put their show back on the air, so maybe there is an alternative for shows just don't quite make the grade.

  2. Todd Koerner from e-merge Media, December 1, 2011 at 9:55 p.m.

    I suspect the bigger issue has to do with getting the unions to play ball. If I read it correctly, that was the primary reason the earlier deal to take the soaps online failed.

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