Shakespeare, Happy Days and Prom Queen

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Prom Queen is coming, and it will be distributed on MySpace. Is the future of new media going to be a world where stories are told over eighty episodes that are each ninety seconds long? And advertising galore – pre rolls, post rolls, and product placements. This may be the highest advertising to content ratio ever seen. The budget for the show is just $100k, which is nothing more than a rounding error in Hollywood.

If enough MySpacers put up with the ads and watch Prom Queen, there will be literally thousands of these shows hitting the web. And all the big portals will gleefully pushing them to us, because they’ll get a revenue share from all those ads.

And if there’s a show that’s any good, users will strip out all those ads, mash those eighty episodes together into one 700 MB file and put it on bittorent. Then the lawsuits will start.

In an interview with NewTeeVee, ex-Disney Chief Michael Eisner (the guy behind Prom Queen, through his startup Vuguru) talks a lot about protection of intellectual property (“I think the Viacom lawsuit [against Google/YouTube] is very promising”) and how people must get paid for their work.

Those are important messages, but as I said with a post about Clown Co., save it for the shareholders. Users want a compelling product, with as few ads as possible mucking things up.

He never talks about the user experience, of the rise of the cream from the chaotic cesspool of user generated content as a real threat to Hollywood’s professionals. He thinks new media is nothing more than “technological advancement and expertise in distribution and exhibition.” “Old media, where he lumps “Greek mythology and Shakespeare and Eugene O’Neill and Happy Days” together, is where the creativity is. He says old media types “understand motivation, and character, and where the denouement goes, and how to develop interests between characters, and make people laugh, and cry”

It’s good to see the Shakespeare and Happy Days guys trying new things. But I think he’s underestimating the seismic shift that’s occurring right now around content creation and distribution. Unlike before, the audience can easily create their own content and distribute it to millions on YouTube. Some of that content will be better than anything Hollywood produces. And it won’t cost even $100k to create.

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