I’m old enough to remember when every TV season started in September. Two months of teasers about new shows and returning favorites, the TV Guide Fall Preview issues, the well-coordinated roll-outs. You know, just like any product launch. Sadly 80% of those shows would be replaced by reruns in less than three months. Cop Rock or a rerun of Perfect Strangers? Balki wins again.
So you’ve noticed things have taken a dramatic turn. In the last few years, the idea of Fall as television’s starting line has evaporated. Premium and basic cable hits like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Dexter started their hit shows in the early summer or deep into winter, making the fall launch all but a memory.
But then Netflix changed the game again. First with House of Cards, then Arrested Development, and now with Orange Is the New Black. Instead of releasing each episode one at a time, the entire season is launched all at once. Can you imagine if Lost had done that?
Launching an entire series at once completely breaks the old models of how television operated. But then with a subscription model, Netflix never needs to sell commercial time, so the only limitation is how well they can push the episodes out. If the producer and showrunner can schedule the shoot so that all episodes are completed at the same time, why not?
Well, the old TV model would push one episode at a time to build viewership and spread the word of mouth, so that each week, your viewership expands. But what if you don’t have a weekly time slot? What if I can watch House of Cards right now, six months after every episode was released instead of waiting for the rerun? What if I can watch it in any order I want, a la Arrested Development (hint: it’s a gimmick, watching it in a different order does not enhance the experience at all!)?
Suddenly, television, which used to work in an “event” model, now works in an internet model, where the content delivered is available whenever and wherever. Family Ties started at 8:30 p.m. on NBC and SXSW takes place in March in Austin, not in Chicago in August, which is where I am
Don’t believe me? Have you met my friend TED? Two decades of annual events in the old school fashion (invitation only, set date and time, etc) converted into a library of 10-18 minute presentations online whenever and wherever you want to watch them.
TED is so influential, it has spawned many like-minded sites like Ignite and Pecha Kucha, each with their own subtle variations in format. They showcase shorter presentations, not because long presentations are boring, but the time constraint forces presenters to be interesting and engaging immediately. They need to get to the point with tangents, rambling, or drawn out stories. It’s the difference between a three-minute rock song and a twelve-minute jazz fusion jam.
So have you started to think about how this “always available content” model affects your presentation? Have you thought about how to launch your event with a library of previous speakers (or use that library to leverage registrations for next year)? What about asking your breakout speakers to hold a Google Hangout after the event to answer questions and then publish the entire conversation?
How will you be thinking about this change in model to enhance your event, to make it more than just butts in seats, to give it legs beyond the ballroom?