Today Ad Age had a very interesting take on the state of television related to the limitations surrounding Sling TV customers being able to watch everything that the channels they are carrying.
I first I looked at the news like most people. "Oh gosh, they're screwing over subscribers." As someone who has deep experience with the idea of "limited edition" products like wine which I collect, and trading cards, which I marketed at The Upper Deck Company in the 90s, I understand "limited edition"
Then I looked again, giving it more thought, That was when I began to compare the concept more closely to that of a "limited edition" marketers approach like we had at Upper Deck or the way sports teams sell out stadiums, something else I know a lot about. In many ways, it was looking more comparable to the way collectors of Bordeaux and Burgundy all race to purchase futures of their favorite producers as soon as the scores come available from The Wine Advocate and other touting publications.
Here's how I see this. Studios are all under increased pressure from writers, actors, producers and directors to be paying more. As such they are looking at ways to determine the true value of their content. The networks and distribution companies are looking to determine how they can charge more. Advertisers are putting increased pressure on their agencies concerning audience delivery. Put this all together, and you have the dawn of a new model. Limited Edition Television.
Under the "Limited Edition" model of broadcast, the first-run showing of a television program or movie release can only be sold to so many viewers, much like a sporting event. Had MadMen been presented that way last night the first 10 million who had scheduled to watch it get to watch it for free, and in turn their demographics are provided to the advertisers for targeting. No wasted Lincoln Continental commercials on me, as I recently leased my Audi S5. Instead why not show me a commercial for British Airways or Virgin America as I have trips coming up all the time. Next, offer for a premium, perhaps ties to a purchase of some advertisers product, the ability to watch the series. Maybe it requires taking a survey to get more audience profile information. After that, the audience is capped and has to watch the "second showing" of the program. Imagine being relegated to the "rerun" class of the second season of "Empire."
This model follows the way movie studios have released feature films. First to the big screen. Then to hotels and airlines, home video, cable, over the air television.
With the "Limited Edition" model, the first airing will set the tone for all that follows. Which brands advertize, quickly followed by which modes of distribution are chosen. This information is used to determine when the series gets viewed on Hulu or Netflix. The collected data and the post-viewing surveys and social media chatter or heat could then be used to decide if the series produces six, 13 or 2 episodes, which day of the week is bet to air the program, what time, etc. Given streaming is involved this allows the service provider to determine how much capacity they need, or can afford as the cost of distribution is different than the older over the air or cable models where those costs are known and fixed.
All of this comes from Limited Edition TV. So rather than look at this as a problem, I prefer to see the limiting of the number of viewers as the new way to build the audience, and to make money.