• 7 things people get wrong about the Internet and TV


    If you read the comments on my first three BoingBoing pieces (here, here and here) about the TV industry, you'll find a lot of interesting (and colorful!) opinions about television and the Internet. There are a ton of good thoughts and ideas in there, but also a lot of things I often hear repeated about TV and the Internet that aren't actually true. I compiled the 7 most common and laid out the realities around them, as seen from my side of the equation. Looking forward to reading a new round of comments that disagree with me ;)

    1. The Internet is killing TV

    Everyone thought the Internet might "Napsterize" TV, but so far that hasn't happened. It turns out watching TV on the Internet leads you to watch more TV on your television. Plus, the Internet is a fantastic tool to promote and market TV shows. Syfy has an especially robust Internet presence (ahem), and we're having some of our best ratings in history. Here's a quote from a Nielsen survey that illustrates the point:

    "The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different."

    2. Internet distribution has made TV channels obsolete

    Also hasn't happened. Although you can get TV streamed over the Internet, as yet no remotely sustainable business model has emerged to make any real money off it. It turns out you still need the mature business model and massive revenues that TV channels provide to create the content people want to stream. In other words, without TV channels there would be no TV shows to make streaming TV on the Internet possible.


  • How to REALLY save your favorite sci-fi show from cancelation


    How can fans of a struggling sci-fi show save it from cancelation? It's a question I get a lot, partly because Syfy has from time to time saved shows from cancelation, and partly because like every TV network we cancel our fair share of shows.

    The No. 1 method of choice for fans trying to save a show is writing letters/e-mails to the network that airs the show. This worked back in the '60s to keep the original Star Trek on the air for a while, and according to this article it may have had an impact on a few shows since then.

    It's not your best bet though, because today EVERY canceled show has a write-in campaign, often accompanied by some clever item…Jericho fans sent peanuts, Lexx fans sent dragonflies, etc. It's so pervasive that it's become background noise. People even start write-in campaigns if we change a show's timeslot, or if an actor leaves a show. Right now there are containers of Fluff in the kitchen of our sibling network USA because fans are protesting the fact that Vincent D'Onofrio is leaving Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I took a picture of the Fluff with my iPhone so you can see. To save a show you need real impact, and you can't get that by doing the same thing everyone else is doing.

    Also, by sending us e-mails about our shows, you're preaching to the converted. We WANT to keep the show, we're just not able to because there aren't enough viewers. In TV ratings drive the business, and viewers drive ratings. So what we really need are more viewers. (more…)

  • People can't accurately tell how much TV they really watch

    The Economist has a fascinating special report about the current and
    future state of the TV industry, where they highlight the fact that
    most people can't accurately say how they really watch TV, or how much
    TV they really watch:


    "This helps explain one of the oddest and most consistent findings of television research: people seem unaware of their own behaviour. In surveys they almost always underestimate how much television they watch, and greatly overstate the extent to which they watch video in any other form (see chart 4). In particular, they underestimate their consumption of live television. One of Ms Pearson's subjects, a 27-year-old man, claimed to watch recorded television 90% of the time. In fact he watched live TV 69% of the time."

    The whole special report is worth a read.

  • Amazing student created trailer for Rendezvous with Rama

    In 2001 Aaron Ross created a beautiful short film for Arthur C. Clarke's book Rendezvous with Rama, complete with stunning sound design by Andrew Halasz. Last year Vancouver Film School student Philip Mahoney took the film and added his own sound design to the film — including a fantastic voice over — to turn it into a trailer for a film. A film I would now really really like to see based on this trailer.

    Both versions are awesome and you can see them below.

    Philip Mahoney's remixed version:

    Aaron Ross's original version:

    Must Watch: Fan Made Rendezvous with Rama Movie Trailer!

  • Why watching TV online (mostly) doesn't help ratings (for now)


    If you legally watch a TV show online, does it count toward the ratings? It's a question I get asked a lot because more people are watching shows online, and those people know ratings determine if their favorite shows get canceled or renewed.

    The answer is no, yes and sort of.

    The "no" answer is easy to explain. TV ratings specifically measure the audience watching shows on TV, while a different kind of ratings system (actually several kinds of systems) measures audiences who watch online. Even though they share a lot of the same content and are integrally linked, online streaming and TV are fundamentally separate businesses that are usually distributed, funded and monetized in different ways.

    Although we can and sometimes do compile an aggregate number of all people who watch a show regardless of what platform it runs on, that's not an especially useful number on a day-to-day business level. For instance, if an advertiser buys an ad in the BOING SHOW on TV, they don't care how many people watched the show on iPhones because they didn't pay to have their ad run on iPhones. Sometimes advertisers will buy on air, online and mobile simultaneously, but it's not the standard (yet).

    Side Note: The convergence of advertising is particularly tricky because companies all buy ads in different ways. Some like to buy TV and the Internet as a package, some buy both but they do it separately, some buy only one or the other, and many use third-party agencies to help them figure out what and how to buy. Those agencies might use different internal buyers and planners for TV than online, and so on. Even when everyone wants to buy the Internet and TV together, syncing up the different groups with their schedules, creative and budgets can be challenging.

    On the other hand, YES! We do track who watches shows online, and we track the revenue that comes in from those viewers. Depending on a variety of factors, that revenue might go directly to us, directly to the show's producer, or be divvied up in any number of ways, with distributors like Hulu taking a cut too. Each deal is slightly different because no absolute standards have emerged (again, I'll add "yet" here). All of those viewers and the revenue that comes from them DO count toward the success of a show.

    The most accurate answer is probably the "sort of" one. Because the streaming markets for Web and mobile are relatively new, the revenue from them is small. So while revenue from them counts, it's not an especially big number right now and we still make the overwhelming majority of money from TV viewing. We'd rather have a million TV viewers than a million streaming viewers because we make more money from the TV viewers, which means they contribute more to the health and success of a show.

    Like most answers in the TV industry this one is murky, at times contradictory and will probably change tomorrow. But as things stand today it's a pretty decent overview of how your viewing habits contribute to the health of a show. TV is still by far and away king, but the landscape is evolving and that can — and probably will — change in the next few years.

  • Solar storm creates killer "zombie satellite"

    A solar storm semi-nuked the Intelsat's Galaxy 15 satellite last month, enough so that it's not talking to Earth but it also isn't completely dead. So now it's wandering around the geostationary arc still broadcasting and about to mess up other satellites in its way:

    "In what industry officials called an unprecedented event, Intelsat's Galaxy 15 communications satellite has remained fully "on," with its C-band telecommunications payload still functioning even as it has left its assigned orbital slot of 133 degrees west longitude 36,000 kilometers over the equator.

    The first satellite likely to face signal interference problems from the adrift Galaxy 15 is the AMC-11 C-band satellite owned by SES of Luxembourg and stationed at 131 degrees west, just two degrees away from Galaxy 15's starting position."

    If nothing can be done to stop it, Galaxy 15 will continue beyond AMC-11 and go on to torture other nearby satellites until it stops pointing at Earth…eventually. No one knows when that will happen, so Galaxy 15 could be causing havoc for quite awhile.

    When it does finally die it will join about 160 other so-called "zombiesats" that are dead but still shuffle around the planet aimlessly searching for brains.

    Galaxy 15 is near and dear to my heart because it was one of the satellites that carried Syfy's signal. So long old berserk, crazy friend…

    "Out-of-control satellite threatens spacecraft"

  • TV Economics 101: Why you can't watch every show online for free


    I get asked a lot why Syfy doesn't make our shows available online internationally, and why we don't make more shows in the U.S. available. Usually I say "rights issues" because the real answer involves a longer discussion of how the TV industry works. As part of a larger peek behind the scenes of the TV industry I'm doing for BoingBoing, I'll give you the longer version: (more…)