Email to my producing partner, Jeff:
I have seen the light, and it is the video ipod... and broadband cell phones... and content for the web.
Everyone. Absolutely everyone I know in production who is developing new ideas is looking for a way to integrate portable video downloaded via rss either into their plans. Everyone wants this stuff produced. But as people on listserves keep mentioning - it's tough to produce. It's not like audio on ipods, where you do the exact same production as traditional forms of distribution and just slap it on itunes - there is an art to producing visual content for such a small screen, and with so much more immediate sound than picture (because your earphones are right in your ear...)
We need to become producers of this content. E.M. Productions does. We don't need to become distributors, or anything like that. We need to become a company that people can go to to get there web/portable video produced. We need to produce all kinds of this material- for commercial and entertainment markets.
Right now, NBC is broadcasting their nightly news on itunes, the emmys just announced a new category for original web content, and every day in the trades the stories are about video on demand, online viewing, etc. etc. We missed beating the big guys, they're all over this stuff - but we're right on target to get in on the ground floor WITH the big guys.
I'm telling you that I think we need to make the decision to take our company in this direction. We need to invest in it and go for it. The idea is we build a business around producing as much of this content as possible. The way I see it, this stuff can fall into 4 categories right now, and we should master them all:
1) original entertainment content - like what I pitched to you before with the Luke reality show. Content built especially for the web - webisodes with supporting stuff like blogs and live webcast specials. Reality, Narrative Documentary, all of it. We specialize in making this stuff - it's commercially driven. We pitch to a sole sponsor to have the show live at their website and be branded with their commercials online. Then they put a few spots on the air driving people to it, and let it work for them. The other model here is that you get a good idea for original content, and you pitch it to either a traditional distro channel (like AOL TW, which now is making their content available online) or to one of the new emerging aggregators like GoogleTV or YahooTV, who want to be in the production business.
2) ancillary entertainment content - 24 already did this, additional webisodes that complement the show, with different characters and a plotline just for the web. The big shows like 24 are going to do this on their own (at least until we're huge) but we market this to people like Rachel Ray's production company. She's that annoying host who's hugely popular on the Food Network. We do a weekly special with a recipe for the web. You can watch it on your ipod or phone, take your ipod to the store with you and you've got the ingredients right there in front of you. You take it into the kitchen and you can watch her make the recipe with you step by step. The same kind of ancillary webisodes can be pitched to high end docs like Ken/Rick Burns, Frontline, etc. And of course to narrative shows. You can have a character on a show do a video diary - or have a special "watch a home movie" produced by the character. Of course, music videos fit into this category too - There's no end to this stuff.
3) original commercial content. The beauty of this is that you don't need to worry about distribution. It's the web baby. We saw how effective this was with ads in the last presidential campaign - the next race is going to be absolutely out of control. A perfect example of this kind of content is you go in and pitch Home Depot a show called "how-to" - it's like the seminars they put on in the store... except on your ipod and on the web. You have a host, make it fun and entertaining, and every week they show you how to do a different home improvement project. From showing you where to find the materials at home depot to step-by-step visuals of how to do it. And they can just take their ipod with them to the store and bring it over to the faucet when they're ready to fix it so they can watch it while they work. Home Depot buys in - you produce the content for them, get in on a microsite, get it rss'ing out, and then they put a few ads on tv and market it in their stores, and boom, they're driving people to their websites and perfecting their branding.
4) educational, and beyond. The beauty of this is that it's a portable device, so it has applications beyond our normal concepts of programming. They are already developing walking tours for really high end museums and such that incorporate visuals - someone has to produce all that stuff... we specialize in it. Even though the web is a world-wide distribution device, it can be used very effectively as a local product as well. How about a virtual tour of the engine of a Toyota Prius that a salesman can hold in his hand and take a customer through while he's sitting in the car?
We need to take this step because it's the best shot we have at creating a viable market for ourselves as an independent production company in the 21st century. Appointment television is all but dead. This portable tv may not be the future, but it may well be. And regardless, diving in and making a name for ourselves producing it will position us in a better place to ride the wave where ever it leads.