One of the effects of DVDs is that we viewers don’t have to be suckers and watch the first few episodes of a soon to be cancelled series. If they make it through a season we can watch the whole thing on DVD at our leisure.
It’s interesting to see the “version 1.0 effect” come to media content. This is the general warning to not buy any software that’s version “1.0” or (for Dark Empire products, any version that ends in “.0”). Savvy and / or non-desperate customers wait a point release or two for the inevitable bug fixes and improvements, or the judgement of the early adopters that it’s not worth buying at all.
It may seem that it’s just the propagation of sloppy code slinger habits to media content, but I think something deeper is occuring and that is the emergence of a much higher level of customer feedback in the production process.
In software, later versions are (in general) better because of specific feedback from early customers. For broadcast media, feedback was always a difficult thing, various ratings systems being unrealiable at best and media critics for the most part disconnected from the mass viewers.
Now, feedback is voluminous and direct, with news groups / weblogs / interest groups etc. It is, however, an open question of whether this data is really more useful than what went before. Such feedback is very similar to primaries for political parties in picking candidates — the ones that are successful with the fanatics may not do so well in the broader arena. Having been around the track myself, one can do a lot of improvement by looking at such feedback but taking it with large quantities of salt. It’s much more like ore than gold, but there are frequently good nuggets buried in the dross.
On the other hand, it may just not be possible anymore to build real broadcast content because there is so much content to chose from. It’s one thing to put up with mediocre content when laser disc players cost $10,000. It’s another when they’re $100 and Netflix is available. One is left wondering what the business model is when you may need to run a show for a year or two before you know if it’s going to be successful in the aftermarket. It could be yet another nail in the coffing of Old Media.
P.S. One possible positive effect would be series that went on longer before all of the cast members became “stars” and excessively narcissistic.