Monitising the freetards pt.2

28Jul09

In pt.1 I did a quick analysis of what people want out of media distribution, and why present commercial models might be coming up short of expectations, thus fuelling use of P2P distribution. A key part of that analysis is that (some) participants are clearly willing to pay for what they get, with the market rate currently sitting at approximately the same as empty storage.

In this post I’d like to explore whether P2P could be the basis of a business model that would directly fund the creation of content. Think do with P2P what HBO did with Cable (HBO 2.0?).

One of the issues with the advertising funded distribution model that we see so much of with TV is seemingly popular shows getting cancelled, presumably because the network executives have looked at detailed advertising sales projections and determined that it’s not profitable to make another series of Firefly or Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles or whatever. The feedstock for such analysis is of course the ratings, which depend heavily on extrapolation from a relatively small primary data source. With P2P however there isn’t any need to extrapolate or come up with crazy guesses, those running a tracker site know exactly what’s going on. This is however of little interest to advertisers, as it’s common practice to cut ads out before content is seeded into a P2P community. It should however be of great interest to content creators, who have an interest in knowing their total audience, not just those being reached by an advertising funded channel. There is also a view that social media like Twitter might also provide a qualitative picture that could be overlaid on top of any raw viewer/download data.

The big question here is ‘could the fans fund another series of …’?

The obvious answer is that it could never happen, even if the economics can be made to stand up, the original rights holders are and will remain unwilling to explore alternative distribution mechanisms.

But what if this was a newly commissioned piece of content?

Well – who would pay for something when they don’t know what it is yet? There’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation here. In fact this illustrates where the networks still hold on to some residual value – they have a reputation established with their customers (the advertisers) and their customers (the viewers) that creates a value chain. When Marillion asked their fans to pre-order Anoraknophobia before they’d even started recording it they had 11 albums under their belt already. A new band couldn’t pull the same trick, and video costs a lot more to make – so anybody wanting to do this for a movie or TV series faces a serious funding gap before they can create content and build a loyal fan base.

The sweet spot then might be spin offs – the TV series from the movie, the movie from the video game – anything that already has that fan base.

Here’s the plan…

The content (say video episodes of a TV series) is hosted on a private torrent tracker, which is also the fan portal. Fans pay a subscription to be members of the portal, which them a bandwidth credit to download the content. They can get the content in whatever format they like – HD, SD, iPod, PSP etc. The content is re-mixable, so fans can create their own derivative works, with licensing terms that bring those works back to the portal. Seeding earns more bandwidth credit (as per the normal model for private trackers), which can be used to download alternative formats or remixes, or that can be traded for merchandise (which is of course sold through the same portal). Everything that the fan of this stuff could ever want is in the same place. There is no DRM.

Once a popularity base is established for a given series or whatever then sub-portals and sister portals can be created to host new stuff, and subscriptions can be extended accordingly.

Can it work? I hope so, if only because I’d like to see more stuff like Firefly and less stuff like Pop Idol, and oh yeah, I’m willing to pay for it – maybe even a little more than the cost of empty storage ;-)



One Response to “Monitising the freetards pt.2”

  1. 1 Ed

    Hmmm, I wonder, nay fear (being as I’m a fan), what effect that would have on a portal like Bleach. http://www.bleachportal.net is a great community initiative driven by Dattebayo in partnership with a major Tokyo TV channel out there.

    I think you’re straying outside your comfort zone ;-)


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