Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lost news 2 [looking forward to February]

The start of Season 6 has been officially announced as Tuesday, February 2 - which is a new night - and as far as I know, I don't usually watch something on that night anyhow.

As for a follow-up show each week that was alluded to last time I posted about Lost, apparently this is not only a good idea, but it's also common with cable shows? And if Lost were a sports program, you'd never notice how very common it is for there be hours dedicated to talking about what you're about to see before the show, and what you saw afterwards.

This has a lot to do with something my brother brought to my attention - Mark Cuban's blog (the obnoxious, outspoken, super-rich NBA franchise owner) - who had noticed that sports ratings are WAY up this year (or so he says).

It has trained us to assign two distinct values to content that is available to us, regardless of media. The 1st variable is participation value. The 2nd variable is shelf life. The two variables go hand in hand.

Every type of content has some quotient of participation value. At the bottom of the spectrum are games/shows/movies/events that you watch or attend by yourself, and you have no interest in telling anyone about. Those shows have zero participation value. They could be Perry Mason reruns (happened to catch one while I was working out on the road) or shows you watch when you have nothing better to do.

At the top of the scale are games/shows/movies/events that potential viewers have predicted to have high participation value. These are events that we look forward to not only watching or attending, but that we plan in advance how we are going to extend our participation. We may plan on tweeting about it or posting a facebook update because we know our friends are there and we are bragging to each other, while at the same time showing off to friends who cant be there. Think going to the opening of Cowboys stadium, or going to a concert or opening night of a movie, or watching the big game.

Or we may plan on going online and participating in discussion forums or chats. Or we may be planning on posting comments on our favorite websites where others have shared interests. For others it may be some version of gaming, ala fantasy sports.

Sports of course have high affinity engagement, and because of the internet, they have increasing participation opportunities. You may watch a Magic game just to be able to tweet to Dwight Howard what you saw while watching the game. You may watch the Giants Eagles game because your fantasy teams are stacked with players from those teams and your league allows first come changes. Or you may just want to see how your guys did so you can text your friends in the league and give them a hard time, or take a hard time. Its very, very common for fans of MMA (mixed martial arts) to stay up to the wee hours to watch our Dream Fights from Japan on HDNet , all the while online discussing the fight and then arguing over the outcome with others doing the exact same thing.

The higher the participation value, the shorter the shelf life. The role of the internet for high participation games/shows/events is not to show them, its to enable the participation. The explosion of Social Networking and social networking enabled games and applications has strengthened this as the internet’s role. Its improving TV ratings of shows with high participation value.


Which brings us to our conclusion. THe longer the shelf life, the more likely that there is a lower perceived participation value. Sure you may want to talk about your favorite TV show with others, but there is no rush. You can get to it when you get to it. More importantly, networks and production companies should work a lot harder at creating realtime participation around their content. If you can increase the value of participation, you increase the value of the show and the desire to watch the show at the same time as others. Which is exactly what is happening with sports in record numbers.

You cant stop people from recording shows on their DVRs, and you shouldnt try. But you should try to give them as many reasons as possible to take advantage of the increased entertainment value of participating with others. High participation equals high viewership. That is exactly what record ratings for sports are telling us.

He has a very good point - if you want people to watch what you're showing, you need them to feel like they've got to see it first, so they can participate with the product as soon as possible, before its shelf life expires. Very interesting - obnoxious, super-rich, outspoken, and probably really, really right.

I don't know a lot about Mark Cuban, but he could be a pretty smart guys, as well.

All of that considered - hundreds of thousands of people log onto social websites that are based in every country that watches Lost to share their thoughts about the last episode they've watched, to chime in on what they think is going to happen - and generally express their pleasure or distaste for what was happening in their favourite show.

This isn't uncommon - Fringe, Flash Forward and Heroes, for example - have tremendous amounts of online material for fans to interact with. This season Heroes actually has a parallel storyline that's only developed online, with an interactive choose-your-own-adventure style of moving the plot forward. Just before a commercial break "Slow Burn" will come on and national television audiences will watch a few instigating seconds of the story, and then they log in to watch the rest, and then vote as how a character should react to the story (popular opinion wins).

So there's plenty of evidence to suggest that Mark Cuban is bang on - but this business model to lure more viewers and fans into a show being based on the sports programming was well above my head. I would never have thought to connect these strategies with NBC's Monday Night Football - while in practice they're very much the same.

So - would it be possible for a live show (Q&A style?) for a half hour before Lost runs? Or perhaps a half-hour after? I'd watch it.

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