Typing Faster

April 6, 2011

The Times They Are A Changing…

Filed under: Future of TV, Mad Men, Netflix — petertypingfaster @ 5:13 pm

So here’s a story that blew my mind a little bit: Netflix just bought the rerun rights to Mad Men.

Netflix, in a sign of its growing importance in television, will become Don Draper’s second home.

The home entertainment company has bought the rerun rights to the TV series Mad Men, making its online streaming service the next place to watch episodes after the show’s initial airing on cable network AMC.

So what did they give up to secure these rights?

Netflix will pay Mad Men producer Lionsgate between $750,000 and $900,000 per episode (dollar figures U.S.), according to people familiar with the situation.

That’s a nice chunk of change.

This follows on the heels of Netflix’s decision to get into the original programming racket with David Fincher’s House of Cards.

If all these moves pan out, Netflix is going to be an even bigger mover and shaker than they already are. Exciting times indeed.

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September 7, 2010

Mad Men: Working With the Pirates

Filed under: Future of TV, Mad Men, Marketing — petertypingfaster @ 9:51 am

It seems like we’ve turned a corner in TV’s ongoing quest to monetize the internet, and YouTube’s ongoing quest to monetize itself. Anyone who’s used YouTube in the last six months will have noticed something: There are a lot more ads than there used to be. But what’s interesting is how YouTube has started to share the revenue from those ads.

From an article in the New York Times:

Last month, a YouTube user, TomR35, uploaded a clip from the AMC series “Mad Men” in which Don Draper makes a heartfelt speech about the importance of nostalgia in advertising.

Viewers wouldn’t notice, but that clip also makes an important point about modern advertising — YouTube is an increasingly fruitful place for advertisers.

In the past, Lions Gate, which owns the rights to the “Mad Men” clip, might have requested that TomR35’s version be taken down. But it has decided to leave clips like this up, and in return, YouTube runs ads with the video and splits the revenue with Lions Gate.

This, of course, marks a serious shift in the relationship between studios, broadcasters and the “Internet.” A conversation that was once dominated by talk of lawsuits and copyright infringement has morphed into a conversation about how each side can maximize revenue by working together.

YouTube’s new profitable relationship with content creators was not always so easy. For a long time, YouTube executives spent their time across conference tables with lawyers worried about copyright violations, said Chris Maxcy, YouTube’s director of content partnerships.

“It was 90 percent lawyers in a meeting and the marketing people faded into the background,” he said. “Now the partners we are working with get checks that get bigger every month. And now when you walk into a meeting there’s almost no lawyers, or there’s a couple of lawyers but they are deal lawyers there to help you get your contract done.”

And YouTube is not just using your typical broadcast ads either. They’ve embraced the interactivity allowed by the internet.

When someone uploaded a recording of the Eminem song “Not Afraid,” for instance, instead of taking down the recording, YouTube ran pop-up ads that let people buy the song or the ring tone and shared the revenue with the copyright owner.

And we’re not talking peanuts here. It turns out that those little ads that Google’s running over top of clips can result in a tidy little profit, to the tune of $450 million. Sure, they’re not Google type numbers, but it’s enough for YouTube to squeak into the black for the first time in its history.

But how much of this new revenue is being passed along to YouTube’s advertising partners? Numbers are scarce for the media conglomerates like Lion’s Gate, but certain individuals with big enough followings can apparently make up to $100,000 a year from shared advertising revenue.

Good to see someone starting to get some money out of the internet.

August 5, 2010

Mad Men: Most Successful Show With the Least Amount of Advertising?

Filed under: Future of TV, Mad Men — petertypingfaster @ 9:51 am

There was an interesting article in Advertising Age the other day. In it they take a look at the advertising revenue, or lack thereof, generated by Mad Men. Despite Mad Men‘s continued cultural influence, advertisers simply aren’t ponying up cash to buy spots with the show.

Airings of “Mad Men” took in only $1.98 million in ad revenue in 2009, according to Kantar Media. In 2008, the show nabbed just less than $2.8 million, and in 2007, approximately $2.25 million. These are paltry amounts when one considers that a 30-second ad in an equally buzzy program such as “24” on Fox cost between $200,000 and $280,000 as the show, off its peak, headed into its final season.

Compound this surprising lack of ad revenue with the shows anemic ratings (season four premiered with 2.9M viewers when you factor in the live +7 ratings, but ratings have since fallen back to 2ish million) and one can’t help but start to wonder why AMC keeps making the show.

Advertisers will “only pay so much” to be in high-quality programs such as “Mad Men,” said Kris Magel, exec VP-director of national broadcast at Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Initiative, because its traditional TV reach is limited. “Once that cost hits a ceiling, the network has to make a decision: Can they afford to continue to make the show for the amount of revenue it generates?” he asked. “Sometimes they do, because the halo generated for the network as a whole and its other programs outweighs the expense. And sometimes they can’t.”

The “halo effect” is probably the best explanation. Mad Men is a critical darling, and the longer AMC can keep it on the air the more that halo will burnish the rest of the networks offerings.

Of course the foreign distribution and DVD revenues don’t hurt either.

That broader “after-TV” audience keeps “Mad Men” coming back to the TV screen each summer. Just as the executives at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce try to help their clients sell Lucky Strikes and Glo-Coat to the masses, so too do they attempt to bolster both AMC, which airs the program, and Lionsgate, the show’s production studio.

Each episode of “Mad Men” costs approximately $3 million to produce, estimated Sandra Stern, Lionsgate Television’s chief operating officer, owing to the show’s large cast and the producers’ attention to the smallest historical details. To cover part of its costs, Lionsgate depends on a license fee paid to it by AMC. The licensing cost of a high-end drama could come in between $2 million and $3 million per episode. Meanwhile, Ms. Stern estimates Lionsgate is able to secure “slightly north of” $500,000 per “Mad Men” episode by selling it to international distributors. Digital revenue, DVD sales and merchandising add more dollars to the coffers, though some of those monies are shared with AMC.

While the revenue that comes in isn’t on par with what a broadcast-network crime procedural might generate, she said, “We declare success and victory with a much smaller audience.”

Interesting.

March 12, 2010

When Merchandising Goes Wrong: Mad Men, Mattel and Barbie

Filed under: Future of TV, Kvetch, Mad Men, the biz — petertypingfaster @ 7:00 am

Producers and broadcasters are often concerned with milking every last bit of potential revenue from whatever projects they do. This is, of course, perfectly natural. Producing film and television is ridiculously expensive, of course you’re going to do everything in your power to make that money back.

Enter merchandising. To wit:

Usually I have no problem with merchandising, and in truth I rarely give it much thought. Some merchandising is great, helping to really build a brand (think Star Wars). But every now and then things go horribly, horribly wrong.

That’s right folks, Mad Men has given Mattel the right to make Barbie dolls of some of its more popular characters.

Oh Mad Men, what have you gone and done now? Just as the programme had firmly established itself as a work of integrity, artistic greatness and perfection, someone behind the scenes has sold out. Licensing rights to Don and Betty Draper, Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway have been acquired by Mattel, the people who make Barbie, with Mad Men dolls due go on sale in the US this summer, to coincide with the fourth series in the US.

Mad Men fans will try to persuade themselves – as I am trying to do, desperately and unsuccessfully – that this news is not as bad as it seems. The dolls are to be designed for “adult collectors” rather than children. But they will still be sold – for $74.95 a pop – under the title “the Barbie fashion model collection.”

The blood runs cold. This is a terrible, compromising thing for the Mad Men team to have done. Mad Men – encompassing the characters of Don, Betty and Joan in particular – is a superb brand: super-cool, uncompromising, ironic and iconic. How on earth is it going to sustain its cult appeal if it resorts to the merchandising route?

Merchandising is the curse of any televisual brand. It needs to be seen to emerge organically – remember when fashion shoots were all in the style of Life on Mars and suddenly everyone wanted a beaten up 1970s leather jacket? – it can’t just be licensed and marketed. And in any case, dolls are surely one of the worst products on offer; reminiscent of Thunderbirds or the Spice Girls at their most insane commercial heights. What next? A chaste Betty lingerie diffusion range? A set of Peggy notebooks and pens? A Salvatore limited edition closet designed by Philippe Starck?

Mad Men Barbies make the show look like Dallas or Dynasty where it’s all about caricatures. But Mad Men is not supposed to have that kind of legacy; it’s so much more subtle. Someone please just make all this merchandising go away – at least before they think up a JR-style “Who drank my martini?” Don Draper T-shirt.

Ugh. What were they thinking?

December 8, 2009

The Aughts: When TV Became Art -OR- When Everyone Learned to Shut Up and Trust the Showrunner

Emily Nussbaum has a nice article over at New York Magazine looking at what the past decade has meant for television. All in all its been a pretty special time.

Just listen to the chronology described at the start of the article.

On January 16, 2000 Big Pussy slouched up Tony Soprano’s driveway, hiding his terrible secret. It was the first episode of the second season of The Sopranos, and everywhere, on cable and network, artful programming was on the rise. In April, HBO aired The Corner, the precursor to David Simon’s The Wire; in May, Buffy the Vampire Slayer closed its fourth season with the dream-finale “Restless.” In July, Freaks and Geeks completed its single perfect season. Sex and the City was a national sensation, The West Wing had begun the previous fall, Jon Stewart was finding his feet on The Daily Show, Adebisi was murdered on Oz, and Curb Your Enthusiasm debuted, violating the premise that viewers couldn’t tolerate a hateful protagonist. HBO was in its heyday; TiVo in its infancy. As Sinatra crooned over The Sopranos‘ opening scenes, it was a very good year.

It sure was. It was a good year that led into a great decade. And it really is incredible, looking back, just how good the television of the last decade has been. Add shows like Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Deadwood, Rome, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and on, and on, and on.

The irony of it is that while the decade produced some incredible television shows, it’s also the decade that produced reality television.

Of course, 2000 was also the year Survivor debuted, that bug-eating guilty pleasure critics denounced as the apocalypse. On Fox, Rick Rockwell married Darva Conger on Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, attracting 22 million viewers: a faked-up spectacle, starring unpaid unknowns, yielding a massive jackpot.

Pretty much describes reality tv in a nutshell, doesn’t it? I’m sure I’m not the only one who hoped that reality tv would go the way of Darva Conger’s marriage (she got it annulled a month after the show aired), but that obviously hasn’t happened. And while you could probably call the aughts the decade of reality television, I think you’d be a doing a disservice to the medium.

…for anyone who loves television, who adores it with the possessive and defensive eyes of a fan, this was most centrally and importantly the first decade when television became recognizable as art: collectible and life-changing and transformative and lasting. As the sixties are to music and the seventies are to movies, the aughts – which produced the best and worst shows in history – were to TV. It was a period of exhilarating craftsmanship and formal experimentation, accompanied by spurts of anxious grandiosity (for the first half of the decade, fans compared anything good to Dickens, Shakespeare, or Scorsese, because nothing so ambitious had existed in TV history).

It was an incredible shift in the way people thought. Before the aughts no one in their right mind would think to even mention television in the same breath as Dickens or Shakespeare. This was change with a capital “C.”

To recognize how radical a shift this was, you need to recall the easy contempt television inspired for 50 years, back when it was “the vast wasteland,” “chewing gum for the eyes.” Even the greatest TV creators knew enough to be reflexively self-mocking; they labored in a compromised medium, built to sell soap. But as this decade began, it had already begun to dawn on viewers that television was something that you could not just merely enjoy and then discard but brood over and analyze, that could challenge and elevate, not just entertain. And a new generation of prickly, idiosyncratic, egotistical TV auteurs were starting to shove up against the limits of their medium, stripping apart genres like the sitcom and the cop show, developing iconic roles for actors like Edie Falco and Michael C. Hall. As the years proceeded (and technology inspired new styles of storytelling), even network TV could stage an innovative series like Lost. On pay channels, especially HBO, it was a genuine renaissance: Show-runners like David Chase and Alan Ball and David Milch and Michael Patrick King (and his Sex and the City writers) reveled in cable’s freedom, exploring adult themes in shocking, sometimes difficult ways.

The New York Times pretty much lost its mind over The Sopranos, but even in retrospect, David Chase’s nasty masterpiece was a prescient creation, a symbol of what was taking place across the schedule: It was an auteurist twist on a classic genre, featuring a dislikable protagonist and stylistic risk-taking startling for TV (dream sequences, oddball pacing, film-quality visuals). In the last years of the nineties, Joss Whedon attracted a passionate cult following with his very different but equally ambitious series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, freed not by paid cable but by the invisibility of the WB. Blending teen romance with classic horror, Buffy had adult resonance disguised by its juvenile title and lo-fi looks – and it was the precursor to ambitious genre programming including Veronica Mars, Alias, Battlestar Galactica, Whedon’s Firefly, Lost, and True Blood.

Who would of thought that the creative resurgence of television as a medium would coincide with the rise of empowered showrunners? Showrunners who were given free reign to realize their artistic visions? In a lot of ways the aughts are a mirror image of what happened during the seventies in the feature film world, just substitute writers / showrunners for directors.

Chase’s and Whedon’s very different voices would come to represent the new style of TV making, less sentimental and more freewheeling, willing to alienate viewers, capable of a slow build not over episodes but over whole years – in striking contrast to the slick, interchangeable legal and medical procedurals, the syndication-friendly format that dominated the networks. On HBO, Alan Ball turned Six Feet Under into a stage for questions about mortality. Aaron Sorkin built a liberal holodeck on The West Wing; on FX, The Shield examined the intertwining nature of corruption and heroism. J.J. Abrams co-created the philosophical puzzle-box Lost; David Milch shocked the Western to life on Deadwood; Vince Gilligan interrogated one man’s slippery moral slope on Breaking Bad. On Canadian television (and reruns, thank God, on Sundance), the drily hilarious Slings and Arrows slashed through three matchless seasons from 2003 to 2006. Showtime built its own boutique-cable brand, with naughty series that reveled in dysfunction – the best being Weeds and Dexter (and the loopiest, Ilene Chaiken’s The L Word). The decade of innovation was capped by the rise of Matthew Weiner, another sly, combative auteur inspired and trained by David Chase, whose narcotic Mad Men brought back the watercooler debates of The Sopranos.

Television had always been a pleasure, a mass entertainment. It was by nature collaborative, requiring and rewarding compromise from those who created it. But in the aughts, the best TV-makers displayed the entitlement of the artist, a risk in an industry dependent not only on advertisers but on the willingness of viewers to continue to let you in, week after week. When his online fan base howled at tragic plot turns, Whedon argued, “It’s a mandate: Don’t give people what they want, give them what they need.” Chase resisted fan worship of Tony Soprano by grinding our faces in his anti-hero’s repulsiveness. In an interview just before the Mad Men finale, Weiner mused, “You know what, I don’t want to have the tail wag the dog; I don’t want the audience deciding what I do. Because I don’t think in the end they’re the best judges of that.” This doesn’t mean that every nose-thumbing auteur made great TV: Take, for example, Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a tantrum about television, on television. But despite such misfires, there was something revelatory about this personality type, characterologically resistant to people-pleasing, with a bratty – sometimes self-destructive – insistence on a legacy beyond that night’s ratings.

Now I’m just going to ignore all the bits about artistic entitlement and bratty, self-destructive behavior, and instead I’ll focus on the positives. If you look at the list of great shows produced in the last ten years, and then take a look at the writers responsible for those shows, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that behind the majority of these shows stands an empowered, successful showrunner.

It’s something that television writers have been saying for years. If you want great shows, then hire the right writer for the job and get out of the way. We all want to write the next Sopranos or Wire. Get out of the way, let us get on with it, and hopefully the next ten years will be as good as the last.

And if it makes you feel any better you can always fire us if things don’t work out. I don’t think any writer would disagree with that.

Check out the rest of the article. It’s a good read.

November 6, 2009

Friday Link Roundup: November 6, 2009

Filed under: 30 Rock, Friday Link Roundup, Kvetch, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy — petertypingfaster @ 12:33 pm

A bunch of kvetching today. I blame it on the crappy weather.

1. The Atlantic takes another look at how 30 Rock‘s lost its way.

30 Rock‘s still a great show, but it’s been uneven as of late and could be a hell of a lot better.

2. The Watcher thinks that Mad Men isn’t the best show on television anymore.

What show does he compare Mad Men to? My favorite, Sons of Anarchy.

3. The New York Times thinks Flash Forward is picking up.

Personally I think they’re crazy, but whatever.

4. Alan Sepinwall answers some questions, including a bit on Cable vs Network budgets.

Not groundbreaking information, but interesting none the less.

5. FX is developing a new Western!

How awesome is that?

October 26, 2009

Research In Mad Men

Filed under: Craft, Mad Men — petertypingfaster @ 12:20 pm

Here’s a great article from the New York Times about the the research process in Mad Men.

THE IDEA “I wanted Betty to get involved in civic matters,” said Matthew Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men.” “That’s what happens after you have a child. When you have a huge group of educated women who are not working, you get things done.” He said that notion was inspired by the short story “An Educated American Woman,” by John Cheever, himself a resident of Ossining. (The Drapers’ address, Bullet Park Road, is also a Cheever homage, to the novel “Bullet Park”; there is no such road.) All Mr. Weiner needed was a cause for Betty, at right above, to get behind in 1963. “My research department discovered that,” he said. “I gave them a very specific task.”

THE SEARCH Brett Johnson, 27, a script coordinator, is the show’s unofficial head researcher, spending hours reading old newspapers to meet the writers’ narrative needs. “We got all the microfiche of all The Ossining Citizen Registers from 1963 and literally read for 50 hours at the public library,” he said. “The task was find something that Betty would need the help of the governor’s office. But not something so big.” Mr. Johnson dismissed a controversy involving Sing-Sing, the prison, deciding that would not interest Betty. A local dust-up over the construction of some sort of plant near a scenic bridge was considered, but its outcome could not be determined in the papers. Then he struck civic gold. “There was a reservoir,” Mr. Johnson said. “The water was decided to not be clean in, like, 1962. They were going to replace the whole thing with this water tank.” He has never set foot in Ossining, but he has looked at the tank via Google maps. And he had a little help on location.

THE LOCAL Norman McDonald, 75, president of the Ossining Historical Society, has become a de facto (and unpaid) props and locations consultant for the show. “They call with the darnedest questions,” he said. “They wanted to know the background color of the street signs in 1963. I told them it was black, and I couldn’t sleep that night because I thought it might have been green. Then I started asking around, and no one knew. That’s the type of question.” Starting with his own vague recollection of the reservoir issue, Mr. McDonald fleshed out Mr. Johnson’s reporting. He also shared his recollections on the layout and appearance of the city’s meeting room, down to the nameplates for the commissioners. Mr. McDonald said he has never watched “Mad Men,” but he did stay up for the Emmy awards, rooting for the show.

There’s a bit more detail in the rest of the article. Definitely a cool way to work!

October 16, 2009

Drink Like Mad Men

Filed under: Mad Men, Stuff I Like — petertypingfaster @ 11:51 am

Have you ever wondered how the characters on Mad Men could possibly get anything done after one of their three martini lunches?

Well, the staff at XX Factor decided to do a little experiment to find out.

All I can say is I wish I worked there.

October 15, 2009

What the heck’s happening with Mad Men?

Filed under: Mad Men — petertypingfaster @ 7:25 am

Over the weekend emmy winning staff writer Kater Gordon was apparently fired. Now there’s news that executive story editor Robin Veith is leaving the show as well.

In the wake of the Letterman and Kimmel affairs, some speculated that Gordon’s exit was prompted by a similar situation. Personally I couldn’t care less why Gordon or Veith decided to leave the show (or were forced out), I just hope that their departure doesn’t hurt Mad Men‘s quality.

August 16, 2009

Mad Men Premieres Tonight

Filed under: Mad Men, Stuff I Like — petertypingfaster @ 8:47 am

Everyone set your PVRs.

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