My 2 Cents

So broadcasters are now “really” complaining that big movies no longer work on free-to-air television. To that I ask: “What are broadcasters doing to change that?” After all, they control the audience, not the movie producers and/or distributors! Well, the answer to that question is pretty grim: Basically, broadcasters are not doing anything.

Actually, they’re doing something: not buying movies. How times have changed. Today, in addition to the financial crisis, it looks like we have a creativity crisis in our hands. Years ago, nothing stopped broadcasters, not even a bad show.

I remember the challenge that a local U.S. TV station faced when a syndicated rerun of an off-net show would not take off with a female audience. Now, you understand that each episode of an off-net show has been milked by a network at least twice if not three times, add to that a syndicated run, and you’ll get the picture!

In that case, the local broadcaster tried the usual trick of moving the show around various time slots, to no avail.

Finally, someone in the TV station’s promotions department started thinking outside the box, theorizing that the problem wasn’t the time slot, nor could it be attributed to the “also-ran” syndrome or to the show itself. The main issue, in the mind of this creative person, was the perception that the female audience had of that series. So, the promo executive first fidgeted with the on-air promos by editing sexy takes of the syndicated shows’ key protagonists and then showing them during afternoon programs popular with female viewers. In no time the demographics began improving to the point of becoming a station hit.

Now let’s go back to the movies. Some broadcasters buy all rights on A-titles because dubbing is too expensive and thus it doesn’t pay to invest that kind of money on B-movies. Then, in order to recoup their money, buyers have to exploit movies through the maximum number of windows. This means that, by the time an A-title arrives at a free-to-air network even the homeless have most likely seen it.

So what’s a broadcaster to do? Let’s us too think outside the box and come up with something unusual or, if possible, add something extra to the broadcast. Naturally, the first thing that comes to mind is a media blitz, planning interviews with movie stars before and during the airing. This, however, could be expensive and, as I like to say, “If one cannot afford the solution, then it’s not a solution.” In lieu of this expensive proposition one could utilize something from the film that has not been fully exploited, like, for example, its outtakes.

This latest solution began to take form in my mind during a stimulating chat during early November’s Santa Monica-based AFM at CCI’s suite with that company’s Jill Keenleyside and Alice Upside Down’s producer Seth Willenson. Both seemed puzzled and intrigued by the idea and encouraged me to keep blabbing, while alternating nonsense with enough sensical things that could, ultimately, produce something really interesting.

Then, later that month, The New York Times Magazine reported that DVDs are getting a new lease on life through the showing of outtakes and production techniques. In the same interview, Hollywood director Rob Cohen stated that background info on DVDs “completes the film experience.”

Imagine, in broadcast’s case, outtakes could become a preview which will encourage even people who have seen the movies in theaters, on pay services, subscription services and even on DVD, to tune in.

By fine-tuning the idea, it seems logical that these outtakes should be programmed the day before the actual movie is shown, with the intent of generating more interest and curiosity, especially to review scenes that one did not pay particular attention to during the film’s previous showings.

Here the name of the game for a broadcaster is to increase people’s curiosity. It is also worth noting that there is a difference in the way people watch movies in the theaters and at home on the TV screen. Broadcasters should capitalize on that difference.  Plus, producers and distributors should help broadcasters in gathering all possible materials to make the film being seen to be viewed in a new light.

Dom Serafini