Eisner to Produce Video for IntarWeb

12 Mar ’07

News this morning that Michael Eisner is going to begin producing video for the ‘net. The first output is to be “a serialized mystery called Prom Queen that will roll out over 80 days beginning April 2 with daily installments lasting 90 seconds”. “There’s a new distribution platform that’s going to be ubiquitous, and that’s clearly broadband,” Eisner says. While sites that feature user-generated video, such as YouTube, “won the short-term sprint” to reach audiences, he says, “Winning the marathon will be professionally produced, emotionally driven story content.” Ads will be pre- and post-, and the emotionally-driven stories will also feature emotionally-driven product placement. Flowers and juice, at first, it seems.

90 seconds, presumably because the IntarWeb is seen to be short attention span theatre. And “emotionally driven story content”, presumably because that’s what works on TV. This may well turn out to be the wave of the future, and in any event content like this will always find some audience, but in this household we spent perhaps 4 hours watching online video this weekend, and none of it was simply rejigged TV content. It was TED Talks, the UK Channel 4 documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle”, YouTube videos of Baryshnikov, and a whole mess of other stuff that was thankfully as far away from conventional North American produced TV fare as one could imagine. None of it was only 90 seconds long – in fact the documentary was 75 minutes long. Oh, and we watched exactly no TV.

I think the transition of conventional TV production models and values to the online world is a good thing – it needs to happen if the evolutionary process that will produce what this new medium is capable of is to get started. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the ‘net is about to explode conventional wisdom about what an audience wants. For the better part of a generation, TV has been producing content for an audience that has pretty much abandoned the will to live – or at least the will to think – and has operating on Pavlovian instincts alone, spending uninterrupted hours moving from remote control to refrigerator to sofa to bowl of chips. A medium whose Prime Directive for a generation has been to keep its audience narcotized is going to have an awfully hard time competing in an infinite channel universe against everyone with a camcorder. Put another way, if TV is no longer capable of producing Maude, All in the Family, MASH and the Watergate Hearings – TV that changed the way we think about our world and moved us to action – it’s time to give a shot to some others who will.

And content will come from everywhere. The remarkable opportunity for events like TED, for example, is to begin leveraging all of the superb content they produce with online video distribution. As TV’s geographical barriers begin to break down this will accelerate. I think we’re going to see oceans of new content like this, all coming from entirely unexpected sources, all challenging accustomed ways of thinking about video as a medium. Engaging content that will bring us together with others who share our interests, move (some of) us to action, and hopefully get some of us off the sofa.

Update: Cory Bergman has a darned smart post on video today.

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