Monetizing Episodic Content

File this under “Yet another proposed method for helping episodic content creators remain profitable in the Digital Millennium.” The short version of this, as it could be adopted by producers of television shows:

  1. Allow a person to sign up and pay for a subscription of digital delivery of the current season of content. This will include access to all of the previous episodes in the season. This digital delivery can be as DRM-encumbered as the content creators want.
  2. Release the content through this subscription and all other channels simultaneously.
  3. At the end of the season ship people who purchased a subscription the DVD without DRM encumbrance.

Problems this solves:

  1. Immediate redistribution of the content through channels which are non-profitable to the content creator (Bittorrent).
  2. Opponents of DRM can feel safe in knowing that they will receive an archival copy of the content they paid for access to.
  3. The consumer of the content not directly supporting the creator of the content.

The main failing to this point with the subscription model is the perceptively free availability of content through other channels. People don’t think that they just spent X% of their television service provider bill on the content that they just watched, it is assumed free. For free online access there is Hulu, and for the less scrupulous, Bittorent. The above-board means of obtaining shows rely upon the content consumers not having the ability to duplicate said content and redistribute it in a manner that reduces the content creator’s ability to charge for it.

Using the approach I propose a person will rationalize that they are purchasing the DVD and incrementally getting the content that will be on that DVD. The actual (nominal) cost of the physical media that the content creator will distribute at the end of the season can be calculated and taken into account when setting the season subscription cost.

There is one important assumption that this makes: that a person who pays for a digital subscription would not purchase a DVD. I feel pretty confident in that fact, but I do not have any statistics to back up that assertion.

As a footnote, the fact that most content creators are not directly supported by the consumers of their content is troublesome as it creates a conflict of interest. To this point there have been a lot of ways that content creators have tried to monetize their content. Off the top of my head I can think the following ways to monetize the content for television shows:

  1. Selling distribution rights to the content. Content creators sell packages of programming to television service providers. Content creators are paid directly by their consumers, who experience a heavily inflated price.
  2. Selling advertising that appears before, during, in, after, or beside the content. Content creators are not paid directly by their customers creating a conflict of interests.
  3. Selling access to individual pieces of content. Content creators post an individual piece of content on services such as iTunes or Amazon Video on Demand for consumers to download at a nominal fee. Content creators are paid directly by their customers who experience a nominally inflated cost.
  4. Selling compilations of content. Content creators distribute data as a collection to their consumers. Content creators are paid directly by their consumers.
  5. Selling subscriptions that allow for varying levels of access to content. This is under-utilized and where my above proposal tries to fill in the blank. Presently this exists almost exclusively as an automated purchasing of the individual pieces of content described above.

I much prefer a model where the content creators are only accountable to their consumers. It allows for total artistic freedom and fits more in line with my world view and values.