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Course: Emerging Media, Broadcasting

Student: Vera Schoonbrood

Student number: 3785793

Reader Report Session 2 Amanda Lotz Revolutionizing Distribution Breaking Open the Network Bottleneck Amanda Lotz, Revolutionizing Distribution: Breaking Open the Network Bottleneck Chapter 4, Television will be Revolutionized Key issues text: Amanda Lotz is debating the concerns of the television industry whether content or distribution is more important. In the network era, where the amount of broadcasters where scarce, it was easier to distribute. Hence the metaphor of the bottleneck. The terms of watching a program on a certain date, time and broadcaster was determined by the limited number of providers. This nature of the ephemeral television altered when new ways of captivating content was developed. Content was made available on video tape, DVD, via video on demand systems and via Internet video services. The internet provided a new way of distributing television programs. The Network Era ended and transferred into the Post-Network Era, which is determined by its widespread content, cable television and several possibilities to watch certain show. Syndication of television shows was are basic element of distribution in the Network Era and the multi-channel transition. Popular television shows where sold after they produced 100 episodes. Then, these episodes were sold to other broadcasting stations. This resulted in the broadcasting of one specific show on several stations and new and old episodes were aired simultaneously. However, before beginning with syndication a television show, these shows were made available on DVD and online distribution. When cable television was available around 2003, a lot of television shows were syndicated which implied more opportunities for the stu dios to sell their product. However, this development seemed subtle compared to the changed that occurred when television was available via the internet illegally. The television industry responded on this trend and made more content available via direct pay-and-watch models. The television industry was at first hesitating to utilize the new opportunities for distribution. After a while they submitted to these new ways and made content available via Video on Demand. Therefore distribution practices where changing over time, according to Lotz. Lotz states that other altered distribution practices where defined by repurposing shows on the original network or selling episodes to other broadcaster stations. The latter hoped to increase audience by distributing re-runs and repurposing shows, but media analysis indicated the opposite. These alteration are based on economic influences. The more a show was sold and broadcasted, the more the production studio earned. However, several examples indicate that shows were cancelled before the whole season was aired. In my point of view Lotz gives extensive insights into the televisions practices. However,

Course: Emerging Media, Broadcasting

Student: Vera Schoonbrood

Student number: 3785793

I am also curious in what way viewers and fans affected the distribution of television shows. Lotz discusses only briefly the influence viewer have on the distribution, but still there are several questions unanswered, such as: in what way have the number of viewers affected the distribution? In what way are production budgets influenced by the audience? Can audience change content and distribution, and in what way? More income was acquired by selling DVDs of television shows. These incomes did not always give an accurate indication of the shows popularity. Even less popular shows could be selling more DVDs then indicated by the number of viewer of the television show itself. Production studios could regain their production costs of the television show by selling the episodes or whole seasons on DVD. A high amount of sold DVD can even determine whether a cancelled show will be produced again. This happened to the show FAMILY GUY, which was requested to produce new shows after a high ranking of sold DVDs of the show. DVDs are also an effective way of attracting fans to buy their own favorite series, because mostly the DVD does not only look fancy and attractive but also contains extra features, takes and sneak previews of the season to come. The need for DVDs vanished when video on demand systems and channels like HBO were made available. The viewer then paid for a whole product of series and films, instead of one single episode, series or season. Another way of specific unlimited content was offered by broadband content distribution via the internet. Viewers now could watch episodes, or parts of it, online. This implies both free access as well as access after payment. This opportunity allowed viewers to re-watch or to catch up a specific episode. In this case, content has not only become more and better accessible, but also exclusive content was made available via the internet. An even newer way of distribution of television shows is via Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). This enabled viewers to watch television via the internet instead of the cable. The impact of this development is still uncertain, and produces a debate on what protocols should be used for this type of television. Even though the content via several distribution way is endless, Lotz argues that viewers are more interested in creating niches. This indicates that the viewers have specific choices and are not interested in the huge amount of content. Not only regarding television shows, but also regarding merchandise. Several new ways of distribution, such as: DVD, Reruns, repurposing, downloading, VO and broadband channels, have offered the viewer new ways of watching television. The television industry changed over the past two decades, just like the ways of viewing. Whereas the Network Era was defined by limited distribution opportunities, hence the bottleneck, the Post Network Era is defined by diverse ways of distributing television shows. Viewers watched more television, because now content was directly accessible. Not only by de diverse distribution offers, but also because viewers could skip commercials more easily. The altered practices of the distribution of television programs have also changed the content, meaning that these

Course: Emerging Media, Broadcasting

Student: Vera Schoonbrood

Student number: 3785793

distribution changes adjusted the content to the specific taste of the audience. Therefore it was easier to produce a show for a specific audience or taste and made narrow targeted programming possible. This implies that the audiences influence has increased regarding the production and distribution of television shows. However, the television industry also profit from this development because they could adjust their demand onto the wishes of the niche. The latter could then subscribe to the channel of their demand and would pay for it. This changed the economic model of the industry, as well as the cultural role of television. Both are now fragmented into several niches. The diverse ways of distribution offers an increasing income for the production companies. These are therefore allowed to experiment with content and length of programs. In one respect the audience is still a steering force, and producers and distributers will have to adjust to their demands. In the other respect, according to Gerald Levin, content might be the king, but the distribution is the steering force. Contemplating on the remarks Lotz made, it is hard not to agree with her. In my opinion she made valuable statements regarding the development of the distribution of the television industry. Her remarks are very economically driven, and well elaborated on several segments of the industry. However, her main point suggest a battle between distribution and content. The latter is in my point of view not well covered. Lotz statements regarding content are based on the industry itself, which I respect. However, the content could be discussed more from the perspective of the audience. Since it are the wishes and demands of them, I would like to read a more theorized perspective on the latter. Furthermore, I missed several perspectives to give a more profundity view on the distribution changes. For instance, I would love to read about a combination of the Jane Feuer text and Amada Lotzs text. This would imply the changed ideology of the distributers regarding the altered content and distribution of television. Likewise, I am curious in what way the altered distribution changed the ontology of television. Is television on the internet still television, since it is not ephemeral or via a television set? Nevertheless, it is of course impossible to cover every possible angle and my comments derive from other interest then the insights into the television industry itself.