Better to be out in front of the revolution than scrambling to keep up.

Yesterday, my friend Amy Berg wrote on Facebook:

People are turning off the TV and turning to the internet for entertainment. We may not like it, but it’s fact. Which is why I’m making digital series. Better to be out in front of the revolution than scrambling to keep up.

She linked to an article that says: TV is dying, and here are the stats to prove it.

The TV business is having its worst year ever.

Audience ratings have collapsed: Aside from a brief respite during the Olympics, there has been only negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011, according to Citi Research.

Media stock analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson recently noted, “The pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever.” All the major TV providers lost a collective 113,000 subscribers in Q3 2013. That doesn’t sound like a huge deal — but it includes internet subscribers, too.

Broadband internet was supposed to benefit from the end of cable TV, but it hasn’t.

In all, about 5 million people ended their cable and broadband subs between the beginning of 2010 and the end of this year.

It’s a fascinating article, and worth reading if you care about this sort of thing like I do. Setting aside the reality that you never hear someone declare: “Oh man, I fucking LOVE my cable company! They are the BEST! Their customer service is, like, UNBELIEVABLE, and I REALLY get my money’s worth for my subscription fees. I love my cable company so much, and they’ve totally earned my business and loyalty!” and so it’s likely that younger customers are fleeing cable because the experience — not necessarily just the content — sucks, I want to talk briefly about creating original content for online distribution.

I remember a time, in the not too distant past, when we’d feel like we had to justify ourselves for making a webseries, like it wasn’t real TV or film. It was like we were creating for online because we couldn’t make it in the big leagues, and had to seek out an alternative. In some ways, that was true, because in the traditional way of doing things, we had to appeal to gatekeepers at networks and mid-level development executives who were more afraid of losing their jobs than they were excited to make something new. That makes sense: there’s a shitload of money at stake for most productions, and it’s only logical that the people in charge of spending that money would be risk-averse — But what’s the point of being in a creative industry if you’re not willing to take some creative risks? That’s where the Internet came in, and fundamentally changed everything for creators. We could take risks, we could make content that maybe wouldn’t appeal to tens of millions of people, but would appeal to hundreds of thousands. We didn’t need to compete with other creators for ratings during a narrow broadcast window, because we understood that our audiences would watch our stuff on their terms, when and where and how they wanted to. We understood that the world was changing, and people would be watching programming on smartphones and tablets, frequently time shifted for their convenience. We knew that because we were those people.

Being those people, and creating for those people, has let us who are the tip of the spear in online distribution continue to just destroy the legacy media companies: we don’t want to control how our audiences get to watch and enjoy and share the things we make. We understand that attempting to control the experience people have when they watch our stuff just makes them find ways around that control, usually in a way that hurts our bottom line and our ability to support ourselves.

Around the second season I did of The Guild, I stopped feeling like I had to apologize for or justify creating original content for Internet instead of television. I stopped feeling like we were playing in the minor leagues, or engaging in a long and expensive audition for “real” work. I recognized that were were ahead of the curve, and the rest of the entertainment industry was going to have to catch up with us. It was so liberating, and it’s been so exciting for me as a producer and consumer to watch new talent emerge online that would never get a chance if TV was the only option.

The successes and failures in Google’s You Tube thing that made Geek and Sundry possible provide a great example of those who get it and don’t: the channels that the major networks and studios used to dump existing content failed, and the channels that made original content thrived. I think it’s safe to say that the legacy content producers and networks just don’t understand the online audience in the way they think they do. I think they’re afraid of online in a lot of ways, because a lot of the older executives who make decisions about digital are still fighting Napster in their heads. I understand their fear, but they’re going to have to come and join us here in the future, or they’re going to wither and die.

We who make webserieses (is that a word? It is now) have been in the future for a few years now, and I’m very interested to see what happens as people who are used to being the king of the mountain without really trying are forced to compete — or at least share space — with those of us who have worked very hard to earn whatever we have online.

Broadcast, cable, satellite, and movies will always be there, and they’ll always have fantastic and lousy content (just like the internet), and I hope that I’ll continue to work across all mediums as an actor and producer. But looking to the real future (the one that is ahead of us, as opposed to the one we live in now): I’ve believed for years that the next generation of creators will go online and play by their own rules. The next Joss Whedon will never have to deal with an evil FOX executive who ruins the next Firefly because of reasons, andI hope that I get to work with him or her someday, because that person is going to make something wonderful.

73 thoughts on “Better to be out in front of the revolution than scrambling to keep up.”

  1. We who make webserieses (is that a word? It is now)

    Considering that “series” is both the singular and the plural in Latin (whence it originated) and English, the same should apply to “webseries”. That is, one webseries, two webseries.

    Trust me; I’m a linguist. 😉

    P.S. Wil, do you recognize me? It’s me, Sam!

  2. I see webseries as the media version of ebooks and author-publishing. Many successful authors who chose to avoid traditional publishing houses appeal to niches that would never have been touched by the Big Six (Five? Four? How many are there now?). Yes, there’s a lot of crap being produced but there’s also a lot of gems. Digital is the way of the future across the board. Those who fail to see that, recognize it, accept it, and capitalize on it deserve to be trampled under the feet of those who don’t.

  3. Seeing the success of other web series both on YouTube and streaming sites (Hulu and Amazon are picking up original programming at a break-neck pace. I haven’t heard much about Netflix doing anything other than House of Cards) makes me hope that I’ll find an audience for my web series once I resettle in Portland and find a group who is ready to go in creating awesome stuff. Failing that, it’s convincing many peoples to donate their dollars to funding the series (or at least a pilot) on Kickstarter or other sites to help me find a crew. The fact that I have these avenues that didn’t exist even a few years ago shows the power of the Internet for creative people that gets us many things we never would have dreamed of. That is one of the true powers of the Internet.

    The other power is LOLCats.

    1. Maybe it’s because of targeted ads, but I see a lot more “Hulu Exclusives” (US release of foreign shows) than Hulu Originals.

      I was surprised just how much original content Netflix has. Though most of it is one-shot specials. I knew about House of Cards, Arrested Development S4, and Orange is the New Black, and I think I heard whispers about Lillyhammer and Hemlock Grove as upcoming shows.

      Have a look:

  4. Dude, you’ve been out in front of the pack for a long time. Your whole Newtek experience was about making webseries, it was just before the web.

    1. Man … if we had the distribution then that we have now, I’d be writing this comment from one of my many yachts.

      We were so ahead of our time with all that stuff, the world literally wasn’t ready for us.

  5. If i may quote Steve Jobs, i remember when he talked about the rise of desktop computers and how when people said to him that desktop computers wouldn’t take off because people refused to learn how to type, he said ‘death would eventually take care of this’. The mainstream world is still tied to its cable and terrestrial network television. But only because the mainstream and older generations have been brought up on it and don’t want to change. But the sooner people who were brought up on this, and this alone die off, the sooner the internet will take over. Companies like Netflix have shown that proper glitzy high budget programs that are top notch like ‘House of Cards’ can be made on the internet, so the loss of broadcast networks wouldn’t be the horror that everyone says it will be. Yes cheap crappy stupid videos will still exist on the internet, and there won’t be as much glitz and glamour in the industry as there once was, but great content will be being made. We will actually get to see the next Firefly wthout worrying it will be ripped off our screens.

  6. I know that a lot of people are watching all kinds of shows online now. Network, cable, and movies online. That is fine if you have a computer or tablet that can handle the content with out it constantly buffering.

    Even though I am 62 yrs old I would love to be able to enjoy internet content that is entertainment in that form. Unfortunately, I can’t afford a tablet, or computer that will stream this content in an enjoyable way.

    Guess, what I am saying is that not all of us can afford to upgrade our electronics to enjoy web series.

    1. Linda, there are many ways for you to receive such content. Many TV compatible devices are now under $100 and available from any major or minor, online or offline retailers. Once you have one, there is much content available for free, or there are subscription services starting under $10 per month… Much cheaper all-round than cable!

    2. OK this is where if you have kids or grandkids you put something for streaming on your Christmas list and also enlist their help to get it set up. Look at it as an opprotunity to connect with the younger generation. I am middle aged and find myselft buying electronic gadgets for my parents and kids which we then spend time getting working and then discussing the things we are watching/reading and sharing what we have found with each other. It can be a great way new way to share. Be warned though as teenagers seem to overshare (in my experience) lol you may find out more about them than you wanted to.

    3. If you have an HDTV set look at Chromecast, a dongle that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV and lets you stream things like netflix. $35. Or the Roku box for under $100 or Apple TV for $100.

      1. chromecast is a b|tch to use for LAN content

        with the same non-gigabit ethernet constraint a $35 Raspberry Pi with OpenELEC will do ya nicely. Purchase the mpeg2 license for better results.

    4. You may have computers too old to keep up with a stream, but it’s more often a slow internet connection. When I have the household’s entire internet line to myself, I get up to 1.3 Mbps, and that’s just skimming fast enough for standard-definition video, depending on how good the compression is. Netflix has the best optimization I’ve seen. Youtube depends on whether or not they’ve been tinkering this week. Ad-supported shows as on Hulu and networks’ own sites stream decently until they break for commercials, which do not prebuffer and do not throttle the compression to meet your speed.

  7. You saw the future when you were doing Star Trek. You left to go work with NewTek. Most people would say they hated you as the character you played on Next Generation. Me included. The character not the person you are. I worked with NewTek and the Amiga and I saw the future as well TV Production Studio in a BOX. I worked in TV as a Newscast Director/Technical Director from age 19 to 39. From 1981 to 2001. I was part of the Golden Age of TV then as far a technical progress. I worked with the best of technology in TV during those years. But the one thing was we did have was the Toaster and I used it more than the millions of dollar worth of digital equipment we had. You have seen it as well as far as the net and the other things out There. As I have seen you over the years get older. But not old. You have gain my respect. I know that probably doesn’t mean a lot from someone you do not know. But for me it says a lot . From one Geek who was a geek and a nerd when it was not cool to be so. I applaud what you just wrote. TV is dying! Everything you wrote is so true from the executives that just don’t get it to the other high paid minions that have no clue as to the future and are ass kissing to save their over paid jobs.

  8. I went indie for my first two novels this year, because I realized that the only thing a traditional publisher could do for me that I couldn’t do myself or hire freelancers for was marketing. Given that new authors don’t actually get much support from their publishers anyway, I’m not really missing much, with one exception: the closed loop between traditional entertainment distribution and entertainment media. Getting traction with reviews, etc. to promote one’s work is next to impossible if you’re not with one of the big guys, and the net result is that it’s hard for people to know your stuff is out there. Viral marketing alone doesn’t really do the job that large-scale media can, and unless one has the luxury of existing name recognition, you’re not going to get much of that, anyway.

    Unfortunately, as I know from spending several years working in that industry, entertainment media is part of the problem. They’re not going to cover anything that isn’t mass-distribution/mass-appeal because that coverage won’t attract audience, and their ad rates will suffer. This means that artists who want to produce work for niche audiences also have to find niche channels to market to those audiences, because large-scale media won’t touch them. Conversely, though, those niche media also have to find ways to let their potential audiences know they exist. A book-review blog that no-one knows about isn’t going to do much to spread the word about the indie books they’re reviewing.

    All of this means, I believe, that truly independent artists without existing notoriety or connections in the traditional-distribution world are going to be struggling for a while, yet. Getting past the gatekeepers to get a work out to the world is great, and yay digital distribution for that, but making a work available for sale is only half the battle, and most of us mere mortals don’t have the array of weaponry necessary for that fight.

  9. People who love the new medium will crow about how wonderful it is, and both say that the old media will always be around and also that the dominance of the old media will end. But few acknowledge the fact that people always get left out of transitions to new media, as Linda suggests above. There may not be anything to do that could prevent that, but it is worth recognizing that any media transition is not just a democratization of content…such transitions always exclude someone. The common assumption, in this sort of crowing about a new medium, is that the audience is voluntarily moving with the content creators. But that isn’t what the data suggest, here. For one thing, the Wall Street media analysts quoted in the LA Times article (the source of the Business Insider article quoted by Wil in his post) don’t think it is. Their conclusions are that cable TV is declining because people can’t afford it. Particularly telling is the fact that the subscribers canceling their subscriptions are not just canceling the TV portion of their accounts – they’re canceling the whole subscription, which means they are also canceling their broadband internet access. So these are not people who are choosing to go to the internet for their content rather than TV…these are people who aren’t getting the content at all. Of course there are other ways to view internet content; people can and do watch stuff on breaks at work (if they’re lucky enough to work at a job where they have a lot of free time on computers), and some people will choose to pay through the nose for data fees for their smart phones, so that they can use 4G instead of local wifi to view the content on the even smaller “small screen” [1].
    So people are being left out, and a drop in TV viewing does not portend a rise in internet viewing. The internet is expensive and privileged.
    I think content producers moving to the internet is a good thing – greater creative control is wonderful, and anything that avoids the outrageous fakery that is the Nielsen ratings system (and the entire system of decision-making based on those bogus statistics) is almost certain to be an improvement. But it’s not a given that the audience is coming with you, even if the poor are likely to “die off” as Jobs was so callously quoted to say. It’s not just a matter of time; it’s a matter of economics, culture, and privilege. People who can’t access internet content will always be with us.

    1 – I say “instead of wifi,” because they can’t use their home wifi – it’s been canceled, remember? – and public wifi is a joke. Various authors have speculated that people are canceling their subscriptions in favor of using free wifi to access their broadband content. This is patently ridiculous. One can barely do text e-mail on public wifi; streaming audio is next to impossible, much less streaming video. People are not craftily canceling their subscriptions because they have a better, free way of getting the content: they’re doing it because TV and the internet are luxuries that they can no longer afford. It’s also interesting to note that this comes after the big winnowing of the poor from video content that already happened several years ago, when the FCC forced broadcasters to abandon analog broadcasting. Millions of people suddenly had no way of watching TV. You won’t see those people in recent media statistics, because they’re too poor to afford cable and too poor to buy a digital converter box and antenna to go with it. That’s likely another segment of the population that is not served by internet content, unless (like with “The Guild”) the content is later provided in a physical format like a DVD which can then be checked out at a library.

    1. “Millions of people suddenly had no way of watching TV”… except for leaving their home for half an hour (heaven forfend!) to purchase an external tuner “digital converter box”, for a one-time cost of $60, less a $40 government-issued voucher. Is $20 once too much to spend to continue receiving television?

      You don’t absolutely need a new antenna for digital broadcast. You ought to be able to at least pull in a few channels with your old rabbit ears. The antenna just gathers the signal, it doesn’t care what the signal says.

      1. That sounds like you have always had $20 handy to spend on non-essentials, and that you don’t actually know people who were cut off by the digital transition.

      2. What you say about antennas is not strictly true. Digital TV requires a higher signal to noise ratio otherwise you’ll get dropouts – with analogue tv you’d just get a little “snow”. Therefore you might possibly need a higher gain yagi-uda antenna to improve the S/N ratio.

    2. the passivity of old media reception will keep it alive for decades to come

      the effort to find interweb (or other internets) content is a bar too high for the 85%

      The wise are unwilling to pay the COSTS of adware-media

  10. The more they try to stifle creativity, the more it insists on itself. It’s simple Newtonian physics.
    They still believe that squeezing our lives so tight, we’d give up on it, but it’s always a futile endeavor. Greed knew LONG ago it would never win, just piss us off…..
    …since the 80s!
    One of my fellow cube-jockeys from a dead-end tech support contract, wrote an episode for STNG and it still fuels my muze.
    The net is evolving and so are the arts.
    Resistance is futile.

  11. As the parent of an aspiring actress and filmmaker, what you and Felicia Day create gives me so much relief. My teenager goes to auditions, but her creativity will never be limited by having to rely on other people giving her a chance to express herself. If ‘they’ don’t want her, she can do it herself! She and a friend do a webseries (on hiatus because starting high school takes time and energy) and she makes movies for her YouTube channel. Thank you for blazing the trail.

  12. Great commentary. I think a lot of thanks goes to services like YouTube and Vimeo, and the like. Having them as a distribution network means that creators can focus on the content and not trying to keep network overlords happy.

  13. I actually do Like my cable company, LOL, but I do watch some content online, usually with a TV show going in the background.

  14. I no longer have a TV arial plugged into my TV and my kids have no idea what a commercial is. TV in Australia is mostly free to air or you can get Foxtel. Audiences are turning towards the internet though as now instead of the magic 1mil audience that TV could expect for big shows they get 800, 000. More and more Australians are turning to online content so that they can view content when they want in the format they want.
    What I would like to know is what is the business model for making an income online. I seem to be able to watch alot for free and I know someone has to make a living out of this somehow to keep it coming. Are you making money out of merchandise and advertising? (Wil this is where you sell me something as a christmas stocking stuffer)

  15. Think about how long some TV shows would still be watched if they were webseries. Firefly might still be around, and what many liked about it was it’s originality.

  16. I have to admit that I have watched exactly one series on the web, Dr Horrible. I wouldn’t say I rave about my cable company, but I certainly have no complaints and they provide me with a massive amount of content, including DVR and On Demand. I just can’t get into tying up my computer with a tv show…

    1. I hate watching video at my desk. What I do whenever I can is connect my television as a second monitor. Preferably set so I can use both tv and monitor at the same time. I’ve never had a problem with network or processor speed running a stream on one screen and browsing on the other.

  17. That said, I would watch Firefly on the computer without hesitation… now. Don’t know if I would have then.

  18. One of the interesting things to watch will be how production values adapt. Would BSG or Firefly be made without the dollars from cable/broadcast? Can a series with, say, 500k to 2m viewers afford the kind of effects and sets that larger dollars make possible? Will tech make effects cheap enough that we can get things that now cost millions for tens of thousands? And will webseries move from the 0.5m to 2m audiences to 5-10m as people discover them (either organically or via Hulu/Netflix/Amazon and probably XBox and Apple at some point)?

    1. Plus, would the networks move in that direction if they saw a bonus? What’s on TV now? Survivor clones and their rip-offs? And why? With less viewership, it might be all that they can afford. The Friends cast were all looking at negotiating six figure deals, Jim Carrey signed a $20 million contract, nowadays, is there a network looking for an ensemble cast anymore?
      Lots of the shows that are coming out are on HBO, etc. Timothy Hutton had a show on A&E called Nero Wolfe, that might never have been made on a ‘main’ network.
      Leverage might never have had a chance, because Hutton might have given up trying with the ‘main’ networks.

    2. This is an excellent point. I’m not sure what the answer is for the future, but I imagine that the people who currently give money to creators for traditional broadcast content will start investing in online creators.

      As it stands now, a number of advertisers are spending more money on Internet than they are on cable.

    3. “One of the interesting things to watch will be how production values adapt. Would BSG or Firefly be made without the dollars from cable/broadcast? Can a series with, say, 500k to 2m viewers afford the kind of effects and sets that larger dollars make possible?”

      BSG never got more than about 2.5 million viewers per episode so the answer is yes.

    4. The dirty secret of television is that while the ads on the standout cable shows help, a large part of their budgets come from the terrible but reliably watched network shows. A company will own a national network and put a lot of shows that will get ratings and sponsorships easily at low cost on it, and at the same time own a few cable channels, and put prestige shows on it, subsidized by the awful things. If NBC falls, Syfy, Bravo, and USA fall too.

      The entertainment industry as a whole is in a spending bubble that will likely soon pop, as the colossally budgeted projects crash and burn (Lone Ranger, anyone?), the execs will probably soon move toward figuring out how to do more with less.

    5. i would argue that less money for effects will increase creativity and potentially even watchability.

      example (with fear of opening a can of worms) i MUCH prefer the effects of Star Wars: A New Hope to those in SW:Attack of the Clones, despite the latter’s much larger budget and technical abilities simply due to the time differential between their production dates.

      given enough time and drive and opportunity, it doesn’t take much money to do what you want with/for people you love.

  19. Of course, youtube has ruined their Comments. I cannot make a comment no matter what I do. There there is the “ordering of comments” that they did. How about by time? It worked well for a while. I could list a dozen other complaints.

    The short of it is, Youtube may have finally shot itself in the foot. People wanted more than just a 5 or 10 minute video. What they really liked was the ability to often interact with other viewers, and sometimes with the people who actually made the stuff. So any webseries thing you make, has to allow for that. And it has to be easy and simple. Will may recall “fan letters”. But look what saved ST:TOS. Fan letters. History speaks.

    The problem is in capitalization. Where do you get the initial money to put out something good? And if you do put out something, how do you monetize it effectively? (The shelf live may be short.) The cable TV networks had this. But they sort of blew it with all their silly rules, and also their “let us milk every dime we can” attitude. “Interaction” was hard, but people used to interact with family, friends, and people at work and school and such. Today, everyone seems unable to survive without instant gratification. (Which brings back my point above!)

    At any rate, good luck.

    1. You can’t make a new comment? Have you linked a Google Plus account? I can make new comments quite easily (unless I’m on an iPad and trying to uncheck the “also share on G+” option), but it’s pretty frustrating trying to reply to people since most visible comments are from the old comment system and cannot be replied to directly. Also, reading replies opens new tabs now for no discernable reason.

      But the most disappointing thing about the transition is it’s done nothing to prevent random cat videos from attracting flame wars between atheist zealots and Christian zealots.

      1. Thank you for your kind reply. I address each point in turn below. I would appreciate any help you could give!

        RE: You can’t make a new comment?
        Nope. Only when someone posts a new vid on G+ and I make the comment there. And that is useless for old vids, or people who do not post on G+.
        I get a weird window that opens and closes,and that is all. I heard others get the same. I thought I had malware.

        RE: Have you linked a Google Plus account?
        I have no idea. I have a Gmail account, and a G+ account, and a Youtube account. When I log into gmail, all 3 show up. I have no idea what “linking” is or how to do it. Or why! If you know, how to tell, how to link, I would appreciate your telling me! At my age, and health, I have limited time to spend on this this. But I do wonder: Do you think Google could possibly make things more complicated?

        RE: I can make new comments quite easily (unless I’m on an iPad and trying to uncheck the “also share on G+” option),
        Well, I have no use for an ipad. With my vision, I need a very big screen. So I am restricted to a desktop, or a huge laptop. And even then, I often need to magnify stuff.

        RE: but it’s pretty frustrating trying to reply to people since most visible comments are from the old comment system and cannot be replied to directly.
        And that is sad.
        They killed continuity!
        And damaged friendships.

        RE: Also, reading replies opens new tabs now for no discernable reason.
        I get a window that opens and closes, and no comments!
        I also see fewer comments these days.
        I wonder why?

        RE: But the most disappointing thing about the transition is it’s done nothing to prevent random cat videos from attracting flame wars between atheist zealots and Christian zealots.
        I never understood that.
        Why can’t we all just enjoy the videos?
        Why must there be weird flame wars?

        I honestly think I am getting too old for this. But I would appreciate any help or answers you could give me on this linking. I googled on the net, but found nothing I could use. A lot of ranting and raving and complaining. I guess I am not the only unhappy one.

        I guess, Wil’s site is more user friendly!!!!

    2. > Where do you get the initial money to put out something good?
      > And if you do put out something, how do you monetize it effectively

      pre-order + profit sharing – union – antiwesterncizpropagandizing = win

  20. I think we’re just seeing more programming, and with that, more fractional (original) viewership. With more viewing options, we’re also seeing a ‘time shift’ as to when the content is being viewed. Movie ticket sales may be down this year, but I’d bet DVD, Blue-Ray, and digital downloads of the movies are up. A content provider shouldn’t care the method of consumption, unless the loss of the prime venue endangers the content being produced in the first place. In other words, if only a movie can have a $300 million budget, we may see less $300 million movies if movie revenues go down too much.
    The shift in content origins may soon turn into a two way street. Burning Love started as a web series and was picked up by E!. I saw Dr Horrible on the CW.
    As internet original series blossom, they will become harder to find on the internet as you won’t, for example, find House of Cards on Hulu, iTunes, or Amazon, while you’d find most cables shows on all of the above. You may, however, start to find them on cable, broadcast, or even a cable’s streaming service. I’d like to see House of Cards, but how can I if I don’t have Netflix?

    1. “I’d like to see House of Cards, but how can I if I don’t have Netflix?”

      It’s available on Blu-ray and DVD.

      …and torrents. (but you didn’t hear that from me)

      1. But here’s the thing that’s really important: If you like House of Cards, and you want Netflix to make more, you need to subscribe to support it.

          1. > Doesn’t buying the DVD work too


            > or is that their frosting on the cake?

            no. that’s part of the franchise pie.

            > torrent

            that deprives men of just compensation. stealing is something else. both injure another party: unjust.

            If however you purchased the blooray and have neither the time- nor patience to master a ripping skillset acquiring from the preinterweb is not unjust so long as you retain ownership of the physical media, or destroy the digital when you resell the physical media

            no high iq required only intellectual honesty

    2. As you bring up movie theaters, I’d like to say that I think the way to save them is to focus less on screening gimmicks and more on the overall experience. Why should I leave my comfortable home where I can watch a movie in private to go spend a fortune on a linoleum-lined, smelly, sardine can? If the trend in subdividing theaters continues, will they eventually get their screen sizes down under the largest consumer televisions?

      I say bigger screening rooms, nicer decorations, comfortable seats, and ticket and concession costs that don’t break the bank. A luxury experience without the luxury cost, as opposed to a crappy experience for a premium.

      There are some niche theaters that are getting the idea.

      1. There is a local theater that serves food — full meals or appetizers, whichever you want — and alcoholic drinks. The seats are wonderful and the food is excellent. I even went to see Monsters University there at * 9 a.m.* — it was a breakfast showing mostly for parents with kids. There were a half dozen families who were there, one with a baby, but it was almost as if I had the theater to myself, it was so quiet compared to a standard theater. [The breakfast I had was fabulous too — and coffee through most of the movie! Almost like being at home — if I had a theater-sized screen!]

      2. > spend a fortune on a linoleum-lined, smelly, sardine can

        there are theaters ’round here that have more comfier chairs, server food and alcohol (keeping out hooligan minors) for a mere $25 (keeping out the other riffraff)

        Patrons ARE ejected for fiddling with zillion non-screen lumen projection.

        Now if only they’d also destroy phones/tablets/whatnot of the offender, too

  21. Wil, I’ll say the unsayable: I really love my cable company. I’m from Romania, and while everyone hates calling when there is a problem, it’s quite rare to solve issues in more than a few minutes. They also provide internet – 1Gbps in pretty much 60% of Romania’s homes, which really is quite lovely. :))

    However, it’s strange to see this decline of Tv. It really feels like this is a golden age of TV, with probably the best series in history (and re-runs of best series in history as well). But I guess it would be way better if they all would be web series, and NOT discriminate against viewers from other countries. Unfortunately Tv channels from US stop viewers from other countries to view their content. I’m not saying it should be for free or anything like it, but I bet everyone would pirate a lot less if they could actually see their favorite shows via Internet, for a decent pay. Yeah, we do have one of the best internet connections in the world, yet we don’t have the streaming market very well developed. Did someone say torrents? 😀

    So it’s actually great to see more and more webseries. Maybe the problem will be how to find them. I don’t know, and I’m pretty much I had a point when I started writing this comment but please, do keep on doing great stuff :)

    1. We’ll play by your rules if you play by ours, content providers. When I can afford it, I’m happy to subscribe to a show on Amazon rather than pirate, because I’m exchanging some money and convenience (I’d rather not be limited to glitchy streaming or Windows Media Player) for the knowledge that I’m supporting the creators and operating within the law.

      I think the manifesto at Don’ is a bit overdemanding, but you go to the negotiating table asking for more than you expect to get.

      See also The Four Currencies.

      1. > When I can afford it

        I betcha have no qualms about “affording” the internets or your mobile phone, do ya?

        When you cannot: don’t watch.

        yikes? not enjoy whatever whenever? perish the thought!!

        > money / glitch

        pay netflix, usenet the HD on your very broad band. No [ethical] crime. stop paying netflix? destroy digital equivalents.


  22. Perhaps I’m missing something subtle – but don’t most people watch webserieses (I won’t worry about whether that’s a word or not) via “high speed Internet” which is delivered over broadband, which is most often owned by your local cable company? So the cable companies, at least, some of them, are hedging their bets – you can buy just the broadband part of their service and they still make money.

  23. Did anyone else cheer and throw a fist in the air for the last paragraph and weep quietly into their tea because they realized that if Firefly had come out now it would have survived online? (Of course then we wouldn’t have had Nathan Fillion in Castle and that would also be a tragedy so everything happens for a reason. I guess. Stupid FOX.)

  24. I read most of the articles you write for your blog, but I never comment. I think that this might be the best thing that you’ve ever written here.

  25. My wife and I only watch TV via streaming NetFlix any more. There are so many commercials on network TV and those commercial breaks are so long that it’s difficult to maintain any sense of story. I keep finding myself in the middle of a 10 commercial long break asking my wife “What was it we were watching?”

    Also, the types of things we’re watching aren’t on network television. We’re just about to wrap up the final episodes of Fringe, we loved Warehouse 13, we started watching Lost and it didn’t grab us. But even if we don’t like a show at least we can experience a dozen episodes of a series as a block over a few nights to decide if that’s a series we want to continue rather than having to invest the time to be home and in front of the TV at a particular time of night on a particular day. And then we’d still have to deal with all those damn commercials.

    NetFlix and Hulu are the future. They’re what cable TV promised to be 30 years ago. If it weren’t for my internet connection I’d have no reason to have cable TV in my house at all.

    1. > NetFlix and Hulu are the future

      they were yesteryears future. They aren’t interested in delivering the HD [fidelity] they promised to lure you into signing up. They technically could easily provide fidelity to very broad band.

      And if/when they do there’ll be no need to pay BOTH netflix and usenet.

  26. The new paradigm always has a great time bashing the old paradigm, but eventually the new paradigm morphs to include those things that were good about the old (cf. cable TV, online services, blogs, news aggregators, smartphones, etc.)

    Internet entertainment has many great features, but the TV networks (broadcast and cable) have several advantages right now that you (we?) would be foolhardy to ignore:
    They provide a reliable destination to find content. I like TableTop, but only basically found it by chance (a.k.a. I read this blog). I find out about NBC shows by watching shows I already like on NBC. Cross-selling works. YouTube channels (especially larger ones, like Geek & Sundry) are a step in this direction, but they’re not there yet.
    They create a shared experience. Even in the age of the DVR, there is still some benefit to having an “opening night.” Homeland – Sundays at 9pm on Showtime. Yes, many folks watch it at a different time (on repeat or on DVR or On Demand or on tablet/phone), but Sundays @ 9pm is the weekly “launch” that gets everyone excited. I don’t know when new TableTop’s come out – I just head over to the channel periodically and check for new ones. Never underestimate a marketing budget and its ability to generate pre-show buzz…
    They filter out the crap. Yes, from a content creator’s point of view, having your own production studio is very enabling. A show that is interesting to only 100 people can still launch and run as long as the creator is willing to put in the time & effort. But each one of those shows buries the TableTop’s of the world under a bigger pile of “holy crap, how can anyone find anything on here?” Again, Geek & Sundry is a step in this direction (as is Netflix), but there are so many aggregators right now (big and small) that there are basically *NO* aggregators right now. Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is excellent, but WTF is Crackle?!? The shakeout will come, and we’ll have the 3 (5? 10? 20?) distributors that we trust to find the good stuff for us. Then we’ll complain that they stifle creators. Lather/Rinse/Repeat.
    It’s easy to buy. Like most people, I complain about paying $80/month for the stuff I want along with a mountain of stuff I don’t want (The Golf Channel? Seriously?!?) That said, I’m much more likely to shell out $80/month, than to shell out $8/episode ten times each month or $8/series for ten series that I like. Pay-as-you-go is fine for movies (both in theaters and OnDemand) because we only consume movies once in a while. But for everyday viewing, I don’t want to think about money every time I sit down to watch something new.

    I’m sure there are more examples. Bottom line is this: you were on the bleeding edge, Wil Wheaton, and yes – others are now rushing to catch up to you. Don’t revel in your prescience too long, though – go find the next bleeding edge so we keep watching…

    1. They filter out the crap. Yes, from a content creator’s point of view, having your own production studio is very enabling. A show that is interesting to only 100 people can still launch and run as long as the creator is willing to put in the time & effort. But each one of those shows buries the TableTop’s of the world under a bigger pile of “holy crap, how can anyone find anything on here?” Again, Geek & Sundry is a step in this direction (as is Netflix), but there are so many aggregators right now (big and small) that there are basically *NO* aggregators right now. Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is excellent, but WTF is Crackle?!? The shakeout will come, and we’ll have the 3 (5? 10? 20?) distributors that we trust to find the good stuff for us. Then we’ll complain that they stifle creators. Lather/Rinse/Repeat.

      I disagree with this. I find more often than not, the big legacy media companies don’t filter out the crap as much as enable it. All I get are shows that however good they are, don’t appeal to me (like Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad), utter crap-filled Reality Shows, or utter-crap filled CSI knock-offs. Granted, I watch shows like The Regular Show and Adventure Time now, but I doubt they would be here if it were not for internet content such as Homestar Runner to change content for the better. I also watch late night political satire like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. And I watched that Jimmy Fallon episode that had my best buds Anamanaguchi on it. That being, said I highly doubt something awesome like Man at Arms would thrive on television without getting watered down, altered for the worse, or canceled. Also, a lot of my musical choices come from independent artists on bandcamp. I’m in the chiptunes scene, and rarely will our music actually become mainstream (though Anamanaguchi was able to chart on Billboard for one week (for their latest album, that is. Also, all the Kickstarter pledges in exchange for the album are scanned by Soundscan)). And that was done on their own label.

      I think in my experience both the legacy players and the independents will be fine. But if the legacy players got better, it was because of, not in spite of the internet.

    2. > They filter out the crap

      nope. they vexatiously inject extra “helpings” of man on man action that summon urges to carve out eyeballs (not my own). And with greater frequency dilute the plot with p*rn.

  27. The future is now, it seems.
    Soon WIL WHEATON dot NET will dominate the world, then the known and even the unknown universe.
    Please, Wil, be a benevolent ruler.

  28. As a wannabe content producer myself I find the market changing beneath me, and I consider this a good thing.

    Believing I had a kick-ass idea for an educational animation, I made a pilot episode and a treatment and sent it round the TV producers who I thought might be interested. Inevitably I heard very little back. While this is undeniably due to the naive way I was going about things, I was more conscious of my lack of demonstrable experience. I thought that I could make a few other smaller projects for the web and hone my skills. Perhaps even gaining some contacts and exposure along the way.

    So now I am putting all my energy towards a new and totally different animation project that, the more I work on it, the more I am convinced has the potential as a crowd-funded web-series in itself. But this is beside the point.

    As time goes on, I see more and more educational material moving online. Projects like the Khan academy are showing how the internet can and indeed should be used as the medium of choice. So now I am thinking, by the time I get back to making my educational series, I will not be begging on the doorsteps of TV producers but instead could appeal to the general public. They would after all be the eventual consumers. It makes sense that they have the ultimate decision.

  29. Thank you for this blog post. I actually used it in class Monday night. I am a professor at Coleman University and am teaching a class on eCommerce and the Digital Economy. I cited your blog and the article to demonstrate how digital fulfillment is changing the nature of the entertainment industry.

    When I mentioned that you were the source of the blog post, one of my students sounded off (mustering his best Dr. Sheldon Cooper imitation despite a thick Hindi accent) with “Wheatonnnnnnnnnnnn!”

    Apparently, you’re a thing in the subcontinent 😉

  30. ISPs like verizon with FIOS offer very few channel packages (four). If there’s that one channel you want, you’ll need the top or second package and enjoy

    $125/mo for TV & symmetric 75megabits/sec internets

    even some facetards realize isp voip is puffery. anveo is where it’s at (don’t be a slave to a single device for old timey sms texting: xmpp texting & sip texting)

    Some of the geeks might have let slip how to usenet on a napkin for their own respective chaotic entertainment. Being an ethical trapeezist I pay for the channel lineup but skip the atrocity that is prosumer dvr fetching programming sans interstitial commercial direct to NAS (as ZFS Z5). Hollyqueerwood receives their just compensation via netflix. As netflix cannot actually deliver the HD quality they promise claiming home network- or home bandwidth are poorly confirgure- or simply poor.

    Not only do gooders pay for their content, but neither we nor they are interested in- nor shall comply with “must” have windows or “must” have device xyz.

    Though I like to dressup as Jonny Dep I am no pirate. This robin plays for the home team.

    > creating original content for Internet

    Cutting out the feckless (unions) reduces costs to benefit everyone!

    > had to appeal to gatekeepers

    mobocrisy (direct democracy) is the new gatekeeper of “social” media.

    democracy = bad

    democratic republic = good

    > failures in Google’s You Tube thing

    google lives to RAPE. Youtube rapes quality like google’s other properties rape privacy.

    > networks .. failed [by cancelling firefly]


    > we don’t want to control how our audiences get to watch

    more xbmc plug-ins, please (or openelec)

    > We understood that the world was changing

    rational: check.

    > people would be watching programming on smartphones and tablets

    You’re really a sheeple? and not simply pandering to “social” media?

    WTH would you want to consume video media on a teeny tiny screen???

    Buy half a dozen tablets to simultate surround sound? 😛

    traditional media ads DON’T watch YOU. The interweb ads served via third party oligarchies not only WATCH YOU but GANG RAPE PRIVACY TO MAKE CENTS.

    Expectation of privacy?

    Please renew expectations! Let’s move away from the need for prism break.

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