A Rapidly Changing Industry in a Rapidly Changing World....what does the future hold for talent?
By Art Lynch
Gone are the days of television residuals, at least in the amounts we have become accustomed to. Gone are the days of large background calls, or they soon will be. Gone are the days when half the office would gather around the office cooler and discuss a television event from the night before.
The Summer Olympics are down from four years ago in London, in part due to a dated NBC formula and delaying games that are only an hour head of our Eastern Time Zone. But even if they were live viewership would be down. Why?
We have an ever-expanding universe of viewing and casual time option ushered in by the computer revolution and remote viewing (cell phone and otherwise) options.
Television series, even the top shows, have a short shelf life. Fewer episodes per “season” (or series, as the now being copied British model calls them), writing that is so current day that it may not have legs to be enjoyed five or ten years down the road, and other options watching “old” (sometimes only a month or so old) series or programs on demand.
There is far more content, much of it quality with other (reality TV and game shows) simply escapism, to drown out the landscape to the point where most consumer find a “new show” after it has been cancelled and sent off to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Yahoo! or a similar service.
Most shows no longer grow “legs”, an audience large enough to maintain the cost versus return radio needed by producers, and fade away before they have even hit their stride.
Consumer expectations are up. We want quality. We want action. We want instant gratification. There is no time to build. Even good shows with top celebrities last season or are cut before the first “order” for shows has been fulfilled.
The is a “new Golden Age of Television” in both quantity and quality. Consumers not only expect it to last but to grow even better, in their image and to meet their taste and expectations.
Meanwhile television viewership, even on services like Netflix, is down. Video games, texting, longer work hours or multiple jobs, changing schedules all have an impact. Heck, do you even know what a “water cooler conversation” is.
Media Convergence is taking its toll.
Media convergence is a term that can refer to either: 1) the merging of previously distinct media technologies and media forms resulting from digitization and computer networking; or 2) an economic strategy in which the media properties owned by communications companies employ digitization and computer networking to work together; 3) the creation of a greater product that can be sold, viewed or supported on multiple platforms and in multiple media (including theme parks, toys, books, etc.).
Instead of focusing on one product, one quality program, the industry is looking at the expanded back end, one which actors and others involved in the original product often do not share or receive any revenue. The residuals model is seeing a rapid death at the hands of technology and convergence.
Media is also advertising and expendable dollar centered. So what were once 18 to 65 or 14 to death ratings are now seldom looked upon or though of. When ratings are resented, or box office audience, or target market, it is most often 18 to 40. A program like “Golden Girls” which was the most watched show on television at the time, would be cancelled today. Why? Its’ audience was under 18 and over 50.
We no longer have one employer. Small producers are creating product at ever lower budget levels and some would say quality, that gets sold and distrusted on “cable” or “web” networks, or even launching their own Internet feed and joining internet “stores” for rental or sales.
The big studios still dominate, and with them the major networks, but their power is eroding as YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, PlayStation, X-Box and other distribution systems are not producing television programs and even movies set to open in theaters.
Piracy is at an all time high, despite efforts to stem it. Technology contributes to rate and nature of piracy of programs, films and music, bur so does a shift in moral center and ethics amid the audience, who are tired of paying every time they turn around and who do not know, understand or even care that they are hurting the actor, small artist and very industry that feeds them product.
There is another elephant in the room (or gorilla if you prefer). Media formats and distribution are now changing rapidly to meet the consumers’ needs or to push the envelope of technology. Much of our current product may be obsolete or perceived as such by the larger consumer base the industry has become dependent on.
We work, or follow, a rapidly changing industry in a rapidly changing world. Our futures as performers, writers, contributors and audience are in a state of constant flux.
Following sites like SAGACTOR on Facebook may help, as well as watching trends in the trades, viewing free panels and lectures on the subject on the internet and of course reading up to date books on the subject.
Good luck in your studies.
Best for you in your journey.