Hawaii Film Blog

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Distribution, Distribution, Distribution

ABC's "Lost"
is quickly going from simply a hit TV show to a tech pioneer-cum-cross-media empire.

First of all, the show's extras-laden Season 1 DVD box set was released in record time.

Then last month, ABC announced a deal to distribute its cash cow on iPods and computers via iTunes for $1.99 a pop. As of today, "Lost" is the #1 most downloaded show, beating "Desperate Housewives," which draws in more viewers on the tube. Together, the shows have sold more than 1 million downloads.

Earlier this month, ABC announced a deal with its sister publishing label, Hyperion Books, that will converge the small screen with the literary word. "Lost" producers will introduce a storyline in which a character, Gary Troup, delivers his manuscript to Hyperion before boarding the ill-fated plane. Hyperion will then publish this "fake" book in the spring.

The other day, I watched some deleted "Lost" scenes from Season 1 on Yahoo!.

Today, "Lost" announced a deal with an as yet unnamed mobile phone company to exclusively distribute spinoff "Lost Video Diaries," which will introduce two new characters. 20 "mobisodes," each just a few minutes long, will start shooting next month under the supervision of executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.

"Lost's" multi-platform distribution explosion and uber convergence is indicative of a media trend. While technocrats and entertainment types have been preaching convergence since the dawn of the Internet, it now seems to finally be happening in a substantive way, thanks to the exponential adoption of broadband and evolution of rich media-friendly hardware.

Other recent moves toward convergence and pimp-style distribution include:

  • In2TV, AOL's foray into online TV, which will feature about 3,400 hours of programming from 100 old TV shows produced by sister company Warner Bros., including "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Growing Pains."
  • The Yahoo!/TiVo deal in which TiVo owners can program their boxes online via Yahoo! to record shows from the tube. Eventually, this will enable Internet TV content to be searched online and delivered on TiVo.
  • NBC Universal hocking its film and TV content over a legit P2P network run by Wurld Media.
  • DirecTV pushing pay-per-view NBC content such as "Law & Order: SVU" and "The Office," and USA content such as "Monk" to owners of a new DirecTV-branded DVR.
  • Comcast pushing pay-per-view CBS content such as "CSI" and "Survivor."

With the deepening marriage of the tech world and the entertainment world will come growing pains as the two industries are so culturally different. It's already happening over at Yahoo!, where one anonymous insider said that in Sunnyvale, Yahoo!'s HQ, it's "a cubicle society," meaning everyone regardless of rank is willing to work in cramped workstations. In contrast, the Santa Monica office is all about " 'How big is my office? Where is my parking spot? You report to me. I don't need to talk to you.' It's very much the studio hierarchy mentality."

What's more, I'm sure the film labor unions will have tons of fun wading through all this cross-promotional, cross-platform, new ancillary distribution muck to figure out how their members should be compensated.

>> 'Lost' deal hatched for mobile [Hollywood Reporter, 11/17/05]
ABC hit 'Lost' to spin off cross-promotional novel [Reuters, 11/1/05]
What's iPod's No. 1 show? [AP/CNN, 11/17/05]
AOL to launch online TV [Reuters, 11/14/05]
NBC Universal goes peer-to-peer [MarketWatch, 11/17/05]
Who's going to buy VOD TV shows? [Knight Ridder, 11/14/05]
Can Yahoo Sign On to Hollywood? [L.A. Times, 11/14/05]

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