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How ABC Killed Their Fan Base (And What All TV Networks Should Learn From It)

IMB_Dilbert_Mordac In Dilbert, Mordac is the character who is described as the "preventer of information services." He is a caricature of the unhelpful IT support tech who seemingly goes out of his way to create inefficiency and discontent in the workplace. Unfortunately for all of us, he also seems to be the role model upon which many television networks are basing their content strategies.

IMB_V_ABC Last night, in an attempt to watch a missed episode of the ABC drama V … I went online to to seek out the latest episode. After several errant clicks, 15 minutes of online searching, and considerable frustration I finally found an external blog post talking about a decision ABC had made to stop allowing fans to watch episodes of V online. According to the post, ABC only issued the following statement:

Fellow V fans,
It is with much regret that we must inform you that full episodes of V will not be available on or Hulu for Season 2. Just like you, we truly wish full episodes were playing here. But we also hope our detailed recaps will keep you informed and entertained should you ever miss an episode.

Best always,
The Team

This type of thinking is why piracy is thriving in many places around the world – because getting and sharing content legally has so many restrictions. It explains part of the reason that it is so difficult to keep a consistent audience for any type of new drama. Most importantly, it demonstrates how backward thinking in the realm of entertainment programming is stifling revenues, stirring discontent and helping new programming to fail.

IMB_V_ABC_Logo Instead of dreaming up ways of preventing people from accessing content, watching it where they want and on the platform they want – why not focus on creating more ways to monetize the content that you already have? Create new advertising models, sell new sponsorships. If the cost of a show is becoming too burdensome or ratings are lower, why not get a company to sponsor the availability of older episodes online?

Thinking more creatively about new revenue opportunities can not only help the economics of paying for high quality content, but also serves the dual purpose of giving consumers what they really want. Without it, you risk coming off as a brand that is hopelessly out of touch with their consumers … kind of like ABC does to fans of V.

6 thoughts on “How ABC Killed Their Fan Base (And What All TV Networks Should Learn From It)”

  1. This is such a great point – make your cherished products MORE available and find creative, less invasive and annoying ways to monetize them. I way prefer watching shows online so that there is minimal ads, and don’t begrudge the longer, more in depth positioning of a product at all!

  2. Good Post! totally agree with the points, if the entertainment industry could utilize more mediums to distribute their content to a wider number of viewers then thats where they would have a greater advantage, discouraging fans from watching their content…

  3. Whew- I thought I was having this problem because I live in South Korea!

    I first moved here a couple of years ago; imagine my disappointment when I discovered I could no longer use my Netflix account, or watch shows on the networks’ websites. IP filters work to some extent, but it’s ridiculous that someone who wants to access their content is prevented from doing so. There is one plus: the NFL has packages available for online access available ONLY if you live overseas. Bizarro World.

    Make me sign-up. Give me commercials. Want to throw up a wall? Fine. I’ll download a torrent. You just missed an opportunity to engage with me. Your loss.

  4. Hi Ken, I find myself conflicted by your post. On the one hand, i agree that networks do a disservice to themselves when the inconsistently limit availability, whether that’s by moving days/time slots, randomly showing repeats and of course randomly decide not to stream some shows.

    That said, I take issue with the casually lobbed challenge that the networks “need to be more creative” with how the generate revenue and that the answer is to simply “find a sponsor” to solve their financial woes.

    Nor is “creating new revenue models” something that the networks can just wake up one morning and unilaterally declare. Shifting advertising models requires the coordinated effort of dozens of companies across the value chain. These changes ask people to make big leaps of faith that may or may not work out and if the don’t, will certainly cost people jobs. The old way doesn’t work as well as it did, but it still works…

    You can’t blame the networks that the earth shifted under their feet, taking their entire business model with them. It’s easy to do, but it’s not really fair. For large established enterprises, responding to disruptive change is a delicate balance of being progressive while not moving too quickly in a direction that can do more harm than good.

    You also can’t change the fact that at this moment, more people watch tv on tv than anywhere else and even though market share has shrunk, there’s no better place to find and engage mass audiences than network TV. Even if you don’t believe that, advertisers do. and as long as they do, the networks need to do whatever they can to retain that audience and those dollars in the short term while they figure out how to meet the rest of us in the future where platform, delivery mechanism, air date and time don’t matter.

    Not streaming V online isn’t going to save the ratings of that show and it is going to piss off whatever audience base it had built there. It’s knee jerk reaction to a numbers game that they can’t win. But you can’t really blame a drowning man for flailing his arms wildly in the water, nor can you simply shout at him to swim harder.

  5. Completely agree. We live overseas and my daughter got some nice iTunes gift cards for her bat-mitzvah. People thoughtfully wanted to get her something that she could use anywhere in the world. But can she use it to download what she wants? No. We are so severely restricted on what we can even pay for that these gift cards are useless until our next visit to the US. It’s even worse with subscription services like emusic, where I am restricted by the country where my credit card is from. Even if I am physically located somewhere else, I can’t download music that is restricted in my country (assuming I could understand why I can’t purchase certain tracks in the first place). I would like to pay for my video and music content. Unfortunately, that is practically impossible anymore. If I want to watch movies I like or listen to music I like, at least 50% of the time, the only way is through torrents.


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