The Fall TV Launch: Time for OTT to Join In?
The big networks generate buzz each year with their fall TV season announcements. Online video publishers like Streamin' Garage and MyDamnChannel are of two minds as to whether it's time for OTT to do the same.
Every September, the Big Five Networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and PBS) generate a tremendous amount of buzz for themselves through the annual fall TV season launch.
Never mind that the event is a throwback to a time when a) broadcast TV was the only game in town, and b) the lead time needed to script and then shoot shows forced the networks to plan well in advance of program airdates. Even in today’s multimedia, multi-platform universe, the fall TV season launch is still a hypeworthy event; if only to give the Big Five a reason to trumpet their continued existence to the general public—and advertisers. Online video publishers have already copied the TV networks by presenting their version of the networks' upfronts with the digital newfronts.
For OTT content producers, providers, and distributors, the media attention garnered by the fall TV season launch poses a question: Should OTT content publishers and networks get in on the action, by staging their own "season launch" at the same time?
“Yes and no,” replies Mike Rotman. He is CEO of Streamin' Garage—home of Stupid for Movies, Stripped Down Live with Curt Smith, and Super Scary Horror Theater—and head of production for the premium YouTube channel Bammo.
“There is so much going on when it comes to web TV series, that it would be good to know when the major shows are coming out: Having a fall launch would do this,” Rotman tells says. “On the other hand, if everybody comes out with announcements for the same time period—given how many OTT providers there are—the best shows could get swamped.”
Over at MyDamnChannel.com—home to The Tweekly News, WainyDays, and Daddy Knows Best—founder/CEO Rob Barnett is open to the idea of a fall OTT TV season launch. After all, “we've always believed in stealing pages from the TV playbook,” he says. This is why “we are developing a major new programming initiative this summer for launch in Q4, but we're not announcing the details until this new baby monster is out of the oven.”
This said, Barnett’s penchant for "stealing from the TV playbook" is focused on innovative content production and timely distribution, rather than timed promotion. “In an ever-overcrowded world online, programming is the key,” he explains. This is why MyDamnChannel.com is quite happy to get new, compelling content online as soon as it can.
A case in point: “In 2012, we launched our most ambitious programming slate, creating My Damn Channel LIVE for YouTube,” says Barnett. “Our daily, live comedy series streams at 4 p.m. eastern at www.YouTube.com/MyDamnChannel and all episodes can be seen on the MyDamnChannel site as well. Host Beth Hoyt interacts live with the audience, interviews celebrity guests, and premieres episodes from over 30 original comedy series.”
Given that 2012 has yet to have reached September, My Damn Channel clearly didn’t wait for the fall to inaugurate its live content. This is because today’s audience wants fresh content now, rather than having to sit through summer reruns as their parents did
“The audience wants to rely on daily and weekly programming [that is new and fresh],” Barnett says. “The advertisers have the best shot capturing audience if the programming is consistent [in quality and newness].”
Over at Streamin' Garage, Mike Rotman is sympathetic to Barnett’s argument. “With fresh content going up on YouTube every day, waiting for September isn’t really a good idea,” he says. “At the same time, we can se the value of riding on network TV’s coattails. This is why we will be relaunching Super Scary Horror Theater in the fall, to take advantage of the new season hype.”
The moral to this tale: The wisest move for OTT operators may be to keep pumping out fresh content 12 months a year, while still holding one-two big series for the fall TV season launch. This way, OTT can continue to catch the Big Five napping for 11 months of the year, while sharing in some of their thunder during September.
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