When it comes to watching television, I’ll be honest and say that I’m one of the growing Gen Y demographic that does not watch telly. I don’t like having to commit to sitting down at a predetermined time of the day just to watch a program.
As most of the telly shows I follow aren’t “mainstream” per se, I hate having viewer aggro when the television network decides to can my show in favour of something with higher ratings. Trust me, too much viewer aggro on my part isn’t good for health.
But at the end of the day, television is business. There is only so much real estate on networks, and the numbers that make the most profits always win. In the old fashioned tv system, it doesn’t really matter how engaged people are with the show. Passion is not rewarded in the telly numbers game.
Something clearly has to change.
Introducing Pioneer One, a new indie sci-fi series that debuted on a bitorrent powered distribution platform Vodo, with P2P file sharing platforms such as uTorrent, Limewire and Pirate Bay also pledging their supports. A quick check on torrents distributing the first episode of Pioneer One at the time of this post – more than 40,000 people shraing content and over 5,000 people downloading today.
One of the show’s filmakers Josh Bernhard made a great observation about how niche shows, though they enjoy high DVD sales and online viewing, cannot sustain themselves on network television:
TV has other priorities than making good TV. You have vocal fanbases whose enthusiasm is ignored, because to networks, their passion isn’t worth more than beating American Idol in the ratings. The fact that TV can’t sustain a show like Firefly, to use a well-known example, with such passionate viewers, shows that something is wrong with how that system works.
The trailer here:
However, it is not the anticipated 1 million views the show receives that makes it a success in my books, but rather the following:
- reaching out to Gen Y demographic (like me), with quality content in a platform we natively use to get our entertainment media (bitorrent).
- the sense of community – ventures like these definitely have a high “talkability” value. Pioneer One leverages this off social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Digg and del.icio.us.
- added value – viewers donate money in order to have the 7 part show running. in return, they get bonus stuff like opening theme mp3 if they donate $5, or even a thank you note in the actual credits of an upcoming episode if they donate $100 amongst other bonus content.
The concept is obviously resonating with people. The intial donation target of $20,000 was reached in the initial one and a half weeks, and the first episode has already been fan subtitled into 17 different languages ranging from Indonesian, Catalan, and German.