Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An All Simpsons TV Channel

From the LA Times, an idea who's time has long since come.

Ready for a channel devoted to nothing but "The Simpsons?"

Don't laugh, it is one idea News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey threw out when speaking Tuesday at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills...

...Carey said there have been a "number of meetings" to determine how to capitalize on its library of episodes of "The Simpsons" and he mentioned a digital channel featuring nothing but Homer and the gang as being a possibility. Carey said it is incumbent on the company to take advantage of a show that is "unique in television with a volume too that is unprecedented."

Let me be the first to say I would welcome our new animated TV overlords.

Anyone who's seen the 24 hour Seinfeld marathon understands the wonder and promise of a sole show television station. I remember the Seinfeld marathon well. Anytime you flipped around the TV, there Jerry was! It was a glorious time to be alive. And as I watched it, I was pretty sure that I would always watch it, anytime, even if it ran 365 days a year.

We're rapidly progressing to a world where one screen of entertainment isn't enough. I didn't get this way until 2009 when I started using my laptop while watching TV, but advances in smartphones and tablet computers should pretty much ensure that within 5 years we're all using two screens at a minimum when we're in the living room.

In such a setup, I place a premium on what I'd call, 'ambient content'. Stuff that I don't have to pay 100% attention to, because I have another screen that simply can't be ignored (e.g., Words With Friends). This is very different from what I'd think of as 'appointment viewing,' which are shows that you're so into you have to specifically set everything down and watch them (few and far between).

But as far as background content goes, sports is a pretty great ambient TV solution. It's always on, and rarely requires your full attention (which is why it's so popular at gyms). Of course, once you're married it becomes less a solution and more of a test to see how long before your wife explodes.

News programming also works, think anything with a talking head and a ticker. That's always my default when I'm on the treadmill and I can't find any sports.

And then, there's also comfortable programming, stuff that doesn't require a ton of thought or direct involvement. It's here where I'd put shows that have been on forever, with an established set of characters and plotlines.

I can watch any episode of Seinfeld and tell you the entire thing after about 2 seconds. Now, that may be really sad as an example of humanity, but my familiarity and comfort with it means that I would always be willing to have it on. The same thing could be said for a Simpsons channel.

Now, a 24-7 channel with nothing but the Simpsons would be fantastic, although I'm wondering exactly what the revenue possibilities are. The Simpsons must generate close to a bazillion dollars in syndication right now (looking for some answers online only gave me an estimate of $1 billion, and that was from 2003). It would be hard to see a model where Fox launches some kind of standard TV channel that would clearly undercut the syndicated value. From the article, I infer the execs are talking about incremental revenue streams.

Could they offer on-demand access to any/all episodes? Or unlimited access to some Hulu-like channel? Or hell, just put the episodes on Hulu itself?

They absolutely could, although I don't know if it would work quite as well.

You see, putting your content into the on-demand sphere forces a pretty big change in the user discovery/experience. When it's simply on TV, I'll stumble across it on my cable guide. But now in an on-demand world, all of a sudden I have to actively seek out the show. And what's worse, but in a completely on-demand environment, I'd have to choose from hundreds of episodes! The paralysis of expanded choice would set in, and I'm sure I'd probably never click through to an episode (incidentally, the same reason why it's so hard to watch a non-continuous plotline show on DVD. If I want to watch the Wire or West Wing [or another show that doesn't start with W], I can start at the beginning, set it and forget it. Not so with a show like the Simpsons or Seinfeld)

Such an on-demand solution from Fox would be interesting (and who knows, maybe this isn't what they're thinking about at all), but I feel as though it would be much harder to attract viewers. When you put it on-demand, you force me as a consumer to go out and find it. But honestly? I'm trying to watch TV...I didn't turn it on to do any work.

No comments: