Actor Kevin Spacey sent the film and television industry into a frenzy following his speech at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival this past week. The Academy Award-winning actor and star of the first Netflix original series “House of Cards” addressed the audience about how a new content model has emerged and is blurring the lines of what we’ve come to know as film and television.
The video of the speech was reported to be circulating through, “The Tech and TV industries,” because of his call to make all content available to everyone at anytime. We have all experienced the wasted Saturday “marathon’ing” a favorite TV series and getting unnecessarily upset that you’ve hit the end of the queue. This behavior, Spacey argues, strikes antagonistically at the way Hollywood has traditionally operated.
Spacey in his address, discussed how the American TV industry, to a fault, indulges in the pilot season. And when he and the producers shopped the show to all the major networks, they all wanted a pilot first.
This is not the first time a consumer’s hunger for content has made a traditional and established industry uncomfortable. Remember Napster and Limewire and what those Peer-to-Peer music-sharing services did to the music industry? Although it was called piracy and the networks succumbed to the legal pressure of the Recording Industry Association of America. But without those two forms of “all you can download” consumption models, today we would not have iTunes and the MP3/smartphone and tablet music stores.
It is with this lesson in mind that Spacey begins to lay the foundation for the Spacey Content Principle:
“And through this new form of distribution, we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”
Spacey in his speech cites, “By comparison, last year, 113 pilots were made. 35 of those were chosen to go to air, 13 of those were renewed, but most of those are gone now. And this year, 146 pilots were shot, 56 have gone to series but we don’t know the outcome of those yet, but the cost of these pilots was somewhere between $300 and $400 million a year. That makes our House of Cards deal for two seasons look really cost effective.”
House of Cards “deal” is Netflix biggest original series to date and reportedly cost $100 million to produce and shoot two seasons.
With this backdrop, I’ve outlined what I believe is really the heart of the speech and a declaration for quality content.
Spacey Content Principle
Any differentiation between these platforms will fall away.
- Is 13 hours watched as one cinematic whole really any different from a film?
- Do we define film as something being two hours or less?
- If you’re watching a film on your television, is it no longer a film because you’re not watching it in a theatre? If you watch a TV show on your iPad, is it no longer a TV show?
- The device and the length are irrelevant; the labels are useless, except perhaps to agents and managers and lawyers, who use these labels to conduct business deals.
- But for kids growing up now, there’s no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on TV or watching Game of Thrones on their computer.
It’s all content. It’s just story.
- The audience has spoken. They want stories. They’re dying for them. They’re rooting for us to give them the right thing.
- And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook, make fan pages, silly GIFs, and God knows what else about it.
- Engage with it with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. And all we have to do is give it to them.
- The prized fruit is right there, shinier and juicier than it’s ever been before. So it’ll be all the more shame on each and every one of us if we don’t reach out and seize it.
The Principle is simple and it is not new.
An effective marketing, digital or social program needs compelling content for it to WANT to be consumed. Long form story telling is wanted by consumers and we Spacey has provided yet another proof point.
So, while we all rush to Vine and Instagram for 7-second video and Twitter for 140 character expressions of brand and reputation, remember that there are consumers waiting to binge on your content.