Nobody Watches TV on the Internet…

…except the people who do.

Last week the LA Times ran an article about the CW no longer offering new, streaming episodes of “Gossip Girl” online.

In a strategic reversal, the CW television network said it would no longer offer free Internet streams of new episodes of “Gossip Girl” when the show returns to the air Monday. Instead, CW wants young fans to watch the drama about privileged preppies the old school way — on TV.

Apparently the show is a hit on the Internet. But the ad revenues can’t equal what the CW can make for first run TV ad rates.

The problem is that the genie is out of the bottle and it’s going to be very hard to put it back in. A whole generation of viewers is growing up right now that expect and want to watch professional content on the Internet. I’ve noted in other posts that I know children from my actual life who have no loyalty to the TV screen, and who assume the real fun to be had is by opening mom or dad’s laptop. It’s just happening. Right now!

Avoiding first run online will not solve the problem. In my view, that path walks perilously close to the disaster the record industry built for itself. To assume that the consumers of entertainment will simply keep doing things the old way because it’s more convenient for the producers and the distributors of content to do things the old way is to throw water into the wind of reality. The consumers have the technology these days to get the content the way they want it. When the record industry didn’t face that reality, piracy ensued. When Steve Jobs harnessed the technology that would let consumers pay for songs at a price point that made piracy more of a hassle than simply buying the song, people bought.

The same thing is going to happen here. For better or worse, people will grow up expecting to watch content on their computers, on their cell phones, on their iPods. It’s just happening.

The only solution is to dive into the reality of the situation and find a model that will actually make money via these new distribution paths. If not, the consumers will find ways of getting it without watching it on TV anyway. They’ve already proven it with music content. They’re certainly capable of doing it again with pictorial narrative.

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