Ask yourself the obvious question about original programming on digital platforms: How can the likes of Hulu, YouTube, AOL or Yahoo pay for topflight programming, stuff consumers are used to seeing on traditional TV?
Answer: Right now, they are not paying topflight talent that much -- maybe as low as $15 an hour.
If you know anything about traditional TV programming, you know it doesn’t come cheap. Actors get millions a year -- and, in many cases, a financial stake in a series’ future windows. In one case, we know that Charlie Sheen pulled in a top-drawer $20 million a year at CBS’ “Two and a Half Men.” (Remind me: Why did he blow that one again?)
On one of YouTube’s new channel’s WIGS, everyone -- including big-time actors like Jennifer Garner and Julia Stiles -- supposedly gets $15 an hour, according to The Wall Street Journal.
All this makes sense. Given the low out-of-pocket advertising revenues of Internet video (though high CPM rates), there is no way to support big, pricy, TV-like productions. That may also be why original Internet series aren’t 60 minutes or 30 minutes like on TV. They run maybe three or four minutes for each episode over a 10-episode run.
Now think of the last several weeks, where new digital video platforms have had TV network-like upfront presentations, some showing off big-name talent, others not so much.
National TV media and advertising executives are used to being wowed this time of year, even as many of them -- jaded as they are -- can be dismissive of these presentations at the same time. But those executives still don’t know if adding sizable Internet video media schedules to traditional TV buys will count for much.
That said, there are bigger issues – mentioned numerous times in this column – particularly concerning the pursuit of “awareness.” Social media marketing and other buzz promotional efforts can only carry you so far when you want big scale for intended big TV/video efforts.
In that regard, YouTube says it’ll spend $200 million to market its new original content. Does that mean you might see promo efforts on some of the TV networks where YouTube has had a partnership of sorts? I would think so.
Drastically lower production costs seem destined to hit the big new digital video programming world – as well as the traditional TV world. But at what level? One thing’s for sure: Charlie Sheen isn’t getting $20 million a year for his new FX show “Anger Management.” But it’s probably a bit more than $15 an hour.