Monday, October 06, 2008

The Dawn of Democratic Content, Web TV Edition

Wired has a great write up of Web TV Show Sanctuary, which is making the jump to the Sci Fi channel, and makes it sound like web tv worth watching.

They plug a few other internet shows, including Stranger Things and Venus Rises.

This isn't the first time cable has mined the internet for ideas. South Park was originally just a Christmas short with a fight between Jesus and Santa Claus over the spirit of the season. But this is the first time cheap green screens are being used in people's homes with some digital video to make higher and higher quality periodic content. The barriers to entry are falling apart.

What does this mean for big content?

Well, content industries here and abroad have pushed for draconian restrictions on trade of intellectual property over the last century, even using utility-sucking quotas to keep people in different places from sharing stories and music with one another. (It's as if Big Content worries that if we understood the perspectives of people around the world it'd be harder to churn out schlocky action films.)

Simultaneously, the MPAA and RIAA have used various measures to kill the emergence of outsider art in their fields, capriciously hiking the ratings of independent films or using SWAT teams to bust people who make mixtapes.

Television seems to be slightly more hip, but it's got its own share of worries. While the Writer's Strike fought to give more of the pie to individuals telling great stories, it simultaneously creates higher barriers for new storytellers getting into the field. The unions in Hollywood are most effective at turning talent away, which leads to more stuff like this at the movies, and more stuff like this on the internet.

All the content industries have historically benefited from incredible entrenchment, and those days are coming to an end. As a result, many content producers are engaging in self-destructive behavior. They cannot win a fight against a flood of art made and shared at almost no cost. I don't want the traditional industries to fail, I want them to succeed, but to do that they need to understand it's time for a radical update to their business models. Without such a realization, they will not stand a chance.