YouTube as Broadcast Network Minor Leagues

Mark Cuban argues that the television networks should do something about a situation where pay for content in order to sell advertising whereas online players like YouTube sell advertising for content others paid for.

The always-provocative Mark Cuban argues that the television networks should do something about a situation where pay for content in order to sell advertising whereas online players like YouTube sell advertising for content others paid for.

I think the real approach is for the broadcast networks to “Game” Youtube. There is nothing that says that they cant use Youtube to audition their pilots. By putting pilots on Youtube and Hulu as well, its a chance to see what the level of interest is for the pilots. This “crowdsourcing” approach, when combined with some traditional research and analysis could allow broadcast networks to be smarter in choosing which pilots to put on TV.

Not only would it allow broadcast and cable networks as well to be smarter, but it also would allow them to get paid to promote the show. Its in Youtube’s financial interest to promote the pilots heavily. Its the most professionally produced content available to it to promote. So why wouldn’t they ? More promotion means that pilots would actually generate revenue in addition to awareness prior to a network scheduling decision being made.

From a bigger picture perspective, unless youtube can reach a position where it generates more advertising revenue online than a slot on a broadcast network schedule, this approach would cement Youtube’s position as the “minor leagues” for broadcast network content. Pilots would be auditioned online and then possibly get “called up” to the major leagues, also known as the network schedule. Those pilots that didnt warrant a call up can get polished up for a 2nd audition, or the production company could choose to stay on Youtube and produce future episodes, working with in the revenue levels earned online.

At least one commenter fears that this would lead to even more dreck on television, since non-formulaic shows sometimes take several episodes to build an audience. That’s perhaps true; if “Mad Men” had been a one-episode pilot, it would have failed because the characters aren’t instantly likable.

At the same time, though, this could conceivably improve the chances of quality shows getting aired. Pilots that would fail before a focus group could slowly build buzz online, particularly if it’s serialized in short segments.

I’m not the target audience for this. Instead, I’m part of a totally unrelated trend that’s making it harder for the networks: the Netflix generation. I seldom start watching a show until it’s in its second or third season and the word-of-mouth is so strong that I decide to jump in.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    My viewing habits are a show recorded on DVR or a DVD (and I am cheaper than you and get my DVDs from the public library). So I would miss the “pilots” on youtube until either word of mouth or they made it to the “majors” and registered. I pay for the satellite and pay taxes for the library, but advertisers aren’t getting much out of me.