Commentary

Can Crowdsourced Funding Work For TV Shows?

When you have true-blue entertainment fans, nothing can stand in their way of watching, or perhaps funding, their needs -- maybe even with TV shows.

Some Richmond, Va. fans of Foo Fighters worked to crowdsource a concert -- hoping their beloved group might then consider holding a live event in their town. Why? The band hadn’t played there since 1998 -- and prominent member Dave Grohl happens to be from Virginia.

Lo and behold, $70,000 was raised through crowdfunding -- enough for the band to commit to a concert. Each of 515 individual donors spent $50 for a ticket. A donut retailer and a Volkswagen dealership also helped.

Another successful crowdfunding event was with the “Veronica Mars” independent movie spun from the original CW TV series.

What other entertainment projects could work the same way?  Maybe crowdfunding big ongoing TV shows?

Detractors may say that traditional TV logistics would make this harder to come to fruition.  Still, would you pay $50 for a returning season of your big-time favorite returning TV show that was near cancellation?

In 2007, CBS renewed rookie drama series “Jericho,” but then called its quits after averaging just over 6 million viewers. But what if those fans had put their money where their mouths were – by committing say $20 for a short nine-episode season? What if today’s crowdfunding could drum up 2 million viewers for any show, with those funders then receiving some special invited guest treatment? Could a limited season with a $40 million production budget work in this digital age?  

Sounds far-fetched. You would think all the original content floating around from networks, cable, syndication, digital and mobile would be enough. But perhaps real hard-core TV watchers want better investment -- of their time and perhaps money.

Netflix, which revived “Arrested Development” last year, has a different financial model, with  customers paying an $8.99 monthly fee. No direct fundraising was needed. Now Hulu is thinking about extending “Community,” which recently concluded its NBC run.

Some lower-hurdle crowdfunding efforts may already be upon us. Netflix believes in big data, which is how it figured out that its customers would like the political drama “House of Cards.”  In somewhat a similar vein, Amazon Studios wants to figure out a way to get viewer feedback on show ideas before pilots are created.

Still, these efforts don’t focus on viewers ponying up any coin. Down the line imagine if a number of low-rated shows could find another life – providing networks and content providers not only with possible valuable assets but also helping them retain loyal customers.

Content providers -- networks and producers -- say they want to be where their viewers are. How about being ready when viewers are ready to watch -- and write the checks?

2 comments about "Can Crowdsourced Funding Work For TV Shows?".
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  1. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, June 19, 2014 at 5:41 p.m.

    I think this is an idea whose time has come. Finally.

    There's no reason that television programs can't be financed through a combination of advertising, subscriptions and single-episode sales -- virtually the same model the magazine industry has used for a century. I would gladly pay $20 a season to get shows I could view via Netflix or my Apple TV. And I wouldn't even mind a few ads at the beginning or end (none in the middle, please) to keep costs down.

    I see two primary markets: 1. Low-rated shows with hard-core following that need to be saved from cancelation (Community, the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Jericho, Stephen King's Golden Years) and 2) New projects from known entities, or high-profile adaptations.

    We don't need movie studios to finance movies any more than we need record companies for bands to produce records. The same way I don't want to pay for cable channels I never watch (hello there, ESPN), I don't mind paying for programming I WANT to watch.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 19, 2014 at 7:56 p.m.

    What would these $20 ers do to get all that money back when they were 66+ years old ?

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