Will Your Show Scale?

I’ve been planning on doing a few different shows for quite a while now. Just about everything is in perfect position… however, before going forward, there’s an important consideration… scaling.

My friend Tyme White is always yakking about scaling. “How does it SCALE?” “That’s not going to SCALE!” blah blah blah blah blah…… Unfortunately (fortunately?) she’s right IF you’re looking at your show being a success from when you’re still in the early planning stages.

The way I’m going to define scaling for the purpose of this article is the ability to grow your show, social site, whatever. Just GROW it. Increase your membership. Increase your viewership. Improve your google rank. Get more people interested. Receive more UGC (User-Generated Content). Get more page hits…..

The reason scaling is important… Rather, the reason that YOU should consider your project’s ability to scale is that you might be broadcasting to a niche market. Let’s say, for instance, you want to make a show about DiY Clothing (DiY = Do it Yourself). There are only going to be a certain number of people interested in making their own clothing. A segment of that population watches videos on the internet. A segment of that population will be aware of your show. A segment of THAT population will like your show and recommend it to other people and/or come back and watch it again. A segment of THAT population will become ‘passionate’ about your show and become your core fans.


Threadbanger.com => Rob & Corinne, Justin & Marissa
That’s great for a start, but once you have an audience, what do you do next? How do you get MORE audience? Can you get more? ARE THERE any more people that don’t know about your show already that might be interested? How can you find them? How can you get them interested? What can you change about or add to your show that will reel in an entirely new set of passionate, core fans?

I remember when I became aware of / fascinated by the concept of scaling. I was hanging out in Bed, Bath & Beyond…. I know, I know. It wasn’t my fault. Blame it on Dan McVicar. :/

Bill Cammack & Dan McVicar
Bill & Dan

Anyway… I’m hanging out by the checkout line, and there’s this endless stream of people slowly making their way to the register to pay. So I start imagining how many people are passing me, and it occurs to me that it’s A LOT! 😀 Then it occurs to me that more people passed me in the last 5 minutes than the total number that subscribe to my show in iTunes. :/ THEN, it occurs to me that if I stood there all day, the number of people that passed me would be greater than the number of people that subscribe to many popular, established internet shows. What I took away from that contemplation was that even if you’re considered popular within your own space or echo chamber, there are still more people to reach…. A LOT more people.

One of the most successful internet video shows that I’m aware of is Rocketboom. In 2006, each daily episode was being downloaded ~300,000 times. Even with numbers like that, comparisons were being made to cable television shows, not network shows, which count their viewers by millions. Recently, this show called “Quarterlife” got booed off the stage for ‘only’ pulling in 3,860,000 viewers on NBC… Obviously more than ten times the daily Rocketboom viewership.

Of course, none of this means anything to people that are expressing themselves by putting video on the internet and have no interest in numbers, stats, revenue-sharing, sponsorships, etc. For those that do care, and whose show’s future may very well depend on scaling, it’s important to consider the “what if?” of potential success.

Actually, before you figure out whether your show is scalable, you need to figure out if your show is SUSTAINABLE, which is an entirely different issue. For the most part, there are no “seasons” in internet-show-biz. It’s a new week… You need a new show. Period. Whatever your cycle is… daily, weekly, monthly… you need to come up with a concept that you can produce consistently and deliver on a regular basis. If you can’t do that, scaling’s useless because your viewers will drift away due to lack of output on your part.

So, do like Tyme does… “Ask NOT, Will it Blend?… but Will it SCALE?”

Network-Quality Series Developed For The Internet

Chuck Barney, of the Contra Costa Times posted an interesting article on freep.com today, entitled “‘Quarterlife’ ready for Internet debut“.

According to the article, “Quarterlife”, a series by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (creators of the hit TV series “Thirtysomething”) is being touted as the first time a “true, network-quality series” has been produced directly for the internet.

Herskovitz is quoted as saying “It’s a very risky, expensive gamble, that’s for sure”, and the article later mentions:

While each hour of “quarterlife” — at $400,000-plus — costs substantially more than the typical online production, the overall budget for the project is “way less than half” of a typical network drama. Also, the crew is much smaller, and they’re forced to shoot on location because there’s no rent money for soundstages.

I’ll assume that an “hour of Quarterlife” refers to finished running time of the series. They have made (or are still in the process of making?) 36 eight-minute “webisodes”. The article doesn’t state their release schedule… daily? weekly? Either way, it’s 288 minutes of finished material, which is 4.8 hours, which @ 400k per….. comes out to One Million, Nine Hundred and Twenty Thousand dollars.

$1,920,000 = 36 x 8-minute shows? Hmm… maybe I calculated incorrectly… Let me try it a different way. 😀

How about if we break it down to minutes instead? 😀

While each hour of “quarterlife” — at $400,000-plus — costs substantially more than the typical online production…

(60 minutes = $400,000) / 60 => (1 minute = $6,667)
(1 show = 8 minutes) x $6,667 => (1 show = $53,336)

(1 season? = 36 shows) x $53,336 => (1 season = $1,920,096)

Hmm… ok… Good… ~$7,000 / finished minute for a “true, network-quality series” being produced directly for the Internet. I, for one, will be *VERY* interested to find out what the ROI will be for this project… as will the Yahoo Videoblogging Group, where we often discuss the intricacies of and potential for monetization of internet video. I’m sure the currently striking Writers Guild of America will be paying close attention to how well this project is received on the internet as well… especially for this reason:

The “quarterlife” concept was conceived three years ago as a pilot for ABC. The network rejected it. Instead of bailing on the project, Herskovitz and Zwick revamped it for online purposes. But they’re quick to emphasize that this isn’t just another case of producers dumping a failed pilot onto the Internet.

If ‘Quarterlife’ works out, financially… that means an entire world (literally) is opened up to television professionals as an alternative method to put bread on the table or even to have entire successful careers based on creating online content.

Caroline McCarthy, a CNETNews.com staff writer (c/net: the social), previewed the first six episodes of “Quarterlife” and is quoted in the article as saying:

“Obviously, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the show,” McCarthy says about the strike. “It might appeal to some people who are looking for something new to watch and are ready to change their viewing habits.”

This is an interesting point, considering many people watch television from their computers already, and some people don’t watch television at all, choosing instead to derive their entertainment from online sources such as web sites, aggregators and rss feed readers. If struck shows go into reruns, people may very well turn to online content such as “Quarterlife” merely to receive ‘fresh’ entertainment. While they’re browsing ‘the space’, they might end up checking out Rocketboom or other daily- or weekly-produced internet shows.

Yes… This will be very interesting. I’m looking forward to finding out what a ~$7,000/minute internet series will “feel” like. We can already tell what it will *look* like from the video posted to the “Quarterlife’ site. The show is scheduled to start on November 11th on MySpace, so “tune in tomorrow” for the jump-off, and let’s see if a “true, network-quality series, produced directly for the internet” helps to revolutionize the online media and content creation space.

Bill Cammack • New York City • Freelance Video Editor • alum.mit.edu/www/billcammack