Simon Fuller showing us the future of TV

By December 17, 2009Content, TV

image Simon Fuller, the creator of the most watched show in the US for the past eight years American Idol, will premiere his new show on Hulu.  It is then expected to air on a traditional television network several months later.

This is a departure from the traditional MO for US networks where they produce one or two pilots of a show to test the market before deciding to commit to a full series.  This is an expensive business with the cost of pilots for blockbuster series’ like 24 running to seven figures.  Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu, expects “we’re going to see a lot of experimentation going on where content creators use Julu to mitigate the risk of the pilot process”.

The new show from Fuller’s 19 Entertainment Group is called If I Can Dream and follows the the efforts of five people to break into the entertainment industry.  Starting life on Hulu will give them more control over the pilot process, including the opportunity to experiment to improve the new format if it isn’t perfect out of the box, and it will give them functionality that isn’t available via broadcast networks including video messaging interaction and integration with social networks.  These functionality differences are sufficient for Hulu to be describing If I Can Dream as “the first of a new generation of post reality entertainment”.

The one thing which Hulu doesn’t (yet?) have is the audience of CBS or Fox, although they did achieve 42m uniques in October.

For me this is a thin end of the wedge event which might herald a significant shift in the way the TV world works.  Firstly people who start watching on Hulu may well stay there even if the show moves to a traditional network.  Secondly, some of the people who go to Hulu for the first time because they want to see If I Can Dream will stay there to watch other shows.  Thirdly, it shifts the balance of power in favour of the content originator and away from the networks, a shift that will gain momentum if the experiment works and others copy it.  I blogged recently that the the world of TV is definitely changing but that it does so only slowly.  This type of event has the potential to become a watershed event that brings the acceleration of change that we are all hoping for.

Thinking about the online media landscape overall, as PaidContent points out it is significant that 19 has chosen to launch this show on Hulu rather than a social network like Myspace which has been home to a lot of original reality content recently – e.g. Get Married on Myspace from Endemol.

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  • Personally I don't see this working for two reasons:

    Firstly the Idol format on network broadcast still gives the performers, judges et al an implied superiority and 'backstage' cache whereas the internet actually does the reverse. (Now we the audience are the judges as opposed to just the suckers who waste millions in call charges phoning in to vote. Similarly we're accustomed to everything on the internet being free!)

    Secondly these kind of shows have so devalued celebrity that the reward of achieving it is being eroded away. When the show fails inevitably to make any of the participants famous (or in the unlikely event that it does but we all know that it is only for the immediate duration of the show and aftermath and is in our wiser viewing eyes an illusion with no material value) then how does it run to a second series or even survive the first? The TV formats still currently have the proven potential for success both in record sales and subsequent careers because the shows are able to garner popular attention and architect the marketing machinery accordingly. These show still cost money to produce and I think Simon Fuller is suffering from illusions if he thinks that this show will make ongoing sustainable profits wholly via the internet imho. What I think is much more likely is that Simon Cowell will use the springboard he now dominates to leak some of the Idol/ X Factor asset online in a controlled way and massage it to a successful formula online.

    As I've said before Nic, all roads lead to Famebook! 😉

  • Thanks Jan. It will certainly be interesting to see. I think Fuller is intending to move the show to broadcast TV in due course.

  • Thanks for replying Nic, I just think it's being done the wrong way round. Pilot>Six Episodes>Renewal>Net – If it was any good someone would have picked it up already and done a proper pilot for TV!

  • Thanks Jan. It will certainly be interesting to see. I think Fuller is intending to move the show to broadcast TV in due course.

  • Thanks for replying Nic, I just think it's being done the wrong way round. Pilot>Six Episodes>Renewal>Net – If it was any good someone would have picked it up already and done a proper pilot for TV!

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