Not Web TV Must Be Unique

Brian Stelter, a writer of online video for the NYTimes, has done it again with an article that makes me wonder if he’s stuck with a miserable job that he hates. For Web TV, a Handful of Hits but No Formula for Success.

In his article today, he focuses on scripted series for the web and makes it seem like everyone is standing around scratching their heads trying to figure out what the formula is. Unfortunately there is no formula to content online and if there does become one, we know we have a problem. 

The “Lost” of the Web — or maybe it will be a “Friends” — has yet to be born.”, Stellar writes.

Stellar grew up in a world where most people turned on their TV’s at some point during the day and picked from an offering of only three or four programs available to the whole world, so of course, everyone knew about these shows. How could you of missed I Love Lucy if it was one of the only things playing? It’s hard to miss Friends, if you are in the US and the US has traditionally exported their most popular TV shows around the world. That world is so long gone its ridiculous that people are looking for that right now. Lost may have been the last.

I am still amazed every time I meet someone that has not heard of Boing Boing so its hard to remember that most people haven’t heard of it. On the other hand, I meet a lot of people who don’t know who the Jonas Brothers are. Meanwhile, there are Jonas Brothers fans who can not identify any songs by the Beatles. The word niche is rejected because the market rejects it and articles like this are a major part of the problem. 

There are not just a few choices appearing on your screen. There are all kinds of things to do and all kinds of things to listen to and see, so naturally, there will be less and less attention on more and more top shows. And so lo and behold, when everyone doesn’t have time to watch all of the top shows because there are too many other things to do than sit around and watch hardly any shows anyway, it will be clear that the golden age of TV is over. 

The article cites Dr. Horrible as a rare examples of a hit, but fails to note why this show made it over the hump: it was because the content was not just good, it was truly unique. It was quite different. It was  distinct and idiosyncratic. It was one-of-a-kind. That is, it was a hit because it was not formulaic.

Stellar’s article might be the most offensive by defining all of this as “Web TV”. Why not look around at what others including your own colleagues are saying about Web TV? No one really likes it because it’s so different than what we are dealing with here. 

*Update: The next day another NYTimes article comes out, “It’s not TV, it’s Web TV”. Ugh.