Friday, May 18, 2007

But We Have To Care First...Aha!

There's a lovely article today from the Boston Globe's Joanna Weiss summing up the week of upfront announcements. Not only does she note the blandness of most of the new TV shows being touted for this fall (or next winter), but makes a good point about the internets:

As they presented their fall lineups to advertisers in the annual "upfront" presentations this week, the networks went out of their way to insist that online content will be as rich as the productions on the air.

CBS trotted out its head of digital content in a suit and sneakers -- for maximum geek credibility -- to talk about such innovations as a Facebook-style site for " CSI" corpses. NBC announced that it is creating an online magazine based on the fictional magazine in its upcoming drama "Lipstick Jungle." And the CW, following in the path of MTV, is creating a virtual world where fans can visit the sites in the teen soap "Gossip Girl."

It's all time-consuming stuff, but it's getting ahead of the game: Before you go online to "interact" with a TV show, you have to care about the show. And this season, the networks' lineups are most notable for what's absent. Remember all of those plot-driven serials containing deep mysteries? The ones that were supposed to draw hours of online mystery-solving? This season, they're practically gone.

Instead, the new fare fits into a few less mentally taxing categories...

You can read the show by show breakdown here...

But it got me thinking...remember when music videos hit the airwaves? It was soooo cool and exciting to actually 'see' bands and artists that you'd just heard before, or perhaps only seen in magazines. Then they caught on...and networks were created to air these short films set to music...and every band HAD to have a video for their songs. Ahhhh....good times.

And some artists even made some most excellent videos...videos you wanted to see over and over again. But this always presented a chicken and egg dilemma for me...which came first (and which did I like better), the video or the song?

Sometimes both, yes. But mostly, at the end of the day, the music video was really just an advert for the song. The band and the label and the record company weren't producing them to entice you to just watch the video...they wanted you to buy the song.

So even if there was a sexy video, the song still had to rock (Aha's 'Take On Me' comes to mind as one that didn't measure up). And once discerning listeners began to realize that all videos were not necessarily all good songs...yet bands and labels seemed to be spending more energy and focus on the video vs. the song...the thrill was gone. Music buyers backed off, and MTV and MuchMusic are all but unrecognizable today from whence they came.

Same goes for websites devoted to new (and old) TV shows. A commercial for the program is one thing, but there's more focus and energy (and money) getting thrown at these sites than a commercial would get. You can't make consumers like or buy into a show via Flash and Games and Facebook pages for CSI corpses (ugh)...we have to like and care about the show first. Then we'll dig deeper on the internets.

Not the other way around.


Diane Kristine said...

But I think the networks are right that it's not wise to launch a show without an interesting online presence. Nowadays, internet buzz starts long before the launch of a show and has a relationship to how many people will tune in (not how many people will stick with it, of course, because no amount of online buzz makes up for a show that disappoints onscreen). If you can get the cool factor demonstrated early, before the show airs, maybe you'll give the audience something to buzz about other than the opinions of people who haven't seen more than a couple of clips from shows who are judging how bland they are already.

wcdixon said...

Sister Kristine...I don't think I'm saying pre-launch hype isn't necessary, it absolutely is. And the internets and websites are the most logical place to generate that.

I'm just hoping that the 'shows' proper don't take a backseat to the websites bells and whistles, that's all. That because it's cool and interactive, therefore it must be good (does anyone really watch Heroes because they got hooked on the online graphic novel at the website?). And there's a lot of creative energy going into these some cases, moreso than the show itself. Like a good song, the shows should be able to stand on their own...not be worth watching just because of the 'video'.


Diane Kristine said...

And I agree with that, but what's the harm in keeping the marketers and web geeks busy? Are creators themselves really taking too much time away from the shows to do this stuff, especially in the early stages?

In any case, even in the US they have the issue that not every show gets a big advertising push, and there's not much point pouring money into producing a show no one's ever heard of. It's not like American networks are hurting for money to put into this stuff. If they hit the jackpot and the show succeeds, having a great site up and running is a huge benefit.

The Film Diva said...

First, DO NOT trash A-HA!! My adolescents was defined by that video. :-)~ Draw whatever conclusions you must from that statement.

Second, I agree that it's cart before the horse on a lot of these online ideas, but I think HEROES and BSG have been excellent examples of how to grow an online community. Although sci fi tends to draw more internet savvy folks in to begin with, each of those shows had message boards, webisodes, podcasts and blogs up from the start and HEROES started with an online comic-book that was pretty decent.

I think if they can make it friendly for people who surf from work, then they might have something, but most of the shows this season don't really target audiences that are big net-user types... at least not the ones I've seen. Although that GREY'S ANATOMY blog just sucks folks in every week. They regularly get up to 900 or so comments. Crazy.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

Aha's 'Take On Me' comes to mind as one that didn't measure up)

I beg to differ, Will. Excellent video for a totally cool song that exemplified the '80s.

I agree there should definitely be a balance between a show and its online presence. Internet bells and whistles should promote a show a few weeks before its premier, then provide a strong backbone to what should be an equally strong series. Heroes and Robson Arms are excellent examples.