I used to run a web company whose unique selling point was ‘convergence’: the hot new idea that everyone in TV was talking about. ‘Convergence’ meant that, pretty soon, there’d be no difference between TV and internet: you’d watch it all through a single entertainment console in the corner of your room.
It didn’t quite happen fast enough for our little company and I jumped ship to concentrate on my writing career. But today I think about convergence a lot. Because it’s finally here.
Viewers have been deserting TV for the internet in droves over the last decade, but broadband is how most TV broadcasters are hoping to win them back.
In truth, it’s not about getting people who now spend most of their life staring at laptop screens back to staring at TV screens. What broadcasters are doing is putting their TV content onto those laptop screens and, in some cases, making up whole new content especially for those laptop screens.
The broadcasters want to keep the billions they get from their advertisers, but these dinosaurs may just be too big and cumbersome to survive the meteor hit of convergence.
The recent Writers’ Guild strike in the US brought it home to us even more: the future of TV is not on TV. It’s on the internet. Convergence has finally happened. It’s there on YouTube and BBC’s iPlayer and every US network offering its TV content through its websites. You can stream video content now and it even looks half decent when you run it full screen on your laptop.
The strike was about securing a stake in the Klondike rush for convergence. The producers know that everythingwill be broadcast on the internet soon. But they wanted writers to think that there was no money to be made from internet broadcast of writers’ work (despite telling their shareholders they’d be making shitloads).
So the smart writers are now getting their content out there on the net and sidestepping the traditional routes to broadcast, i.e. waiting for some clueless, coked-up trustafarian with a TV job to greenlight your creativity (for an overview check out this video about the writers’ strike from about 5 mins onwards).
New York Magazine recently drew attention to the fact that the funniest web videos are no longer webcam mishaps but real productions, scripted and filmed especially for an internet audience by the likes of Chelsea Peretti, Clark and Micheal, David Wain. Productions like the superb Derek and Simon Show…
These are ideas that can be shot on a very low budget and lend themselves to 5-10 minute episodes. The template is there and works equally well for drama (see new online drama, Sofia’s Diary, that Danny Stack‘s been writing).
I don’t know about you, but I’m one writer who’s getting very excited about the idea of becoming a writer-netcaster, and I’m mentally rewriting that half-hour drama series of mine into 5-minute webisodes.
We live in an age where filming, editing and broadcasting has never been so easy and cheap to do.
The real success stories of the next decade are going to be those writers who have the guts to become broadcasters.