Tonight I finished watching Homeland from Showtime – and tweeted about it (really great show by the way!)
To my surprise it set off a flurry of responses from friends and colleagues who were at various stages of being either interested in starting to watch it, in the middle of it, or interested in more. This presents a “hello Homeland” situation for many of my friends who want to see the show from this tweet, heard about it elsewhere, or maybe just have an interest and want to sample it. But right now they can’t do that.
Some friends even started watching it right away based on or tipped into watching it from my recommendation.
This is the part I find extremely fascinating (and no, I am not looking for a pat on the back). Everyone is looking to cut their cable, and stop paying large cable co’s for service, or switch to an a la carte model. The problem is that this does not mesh well with the behavior that we currently follow. Its extremely hard to change peoples behavior, and although the complaints are real, the bills are high – the benefit of cable to solve this need/desire to consume things as they are broadcast is a real benefit.
I’ve long believed that piracy is largely a business model problem not a human behavior problem. If you give people a legal way to consume the content they want, they will pay for it.
So what business model supports the current behavior? Affiliate links and capturing attention.
Currently there are different models that could support this type of behavior. The simplest is affiliate links. More difficult is capturing attention. If I could have linked out to two (or one if they were smart) types of content, I bet I could have generated direct sales, or possibly even subscription sales for Showtime via Homeland. Afterwards, there is interest and intent around the show – just waiting to happen online.
The first, and simplest method would be to allow someone to deeplink to content that only subscribers have access to. Meaning a Showtime subscriber could link to an extended viewing of Homeland to their social network, attributing the longer viewing and following episode sale or subscription sale to their account.
The second, would be driving views to content (read: ratings) via my recommendation. This attention could be monetized by ads, and because it comes from a trusted source (me) my friends and colleagues may sit through advertising supported video for their first viewing of the show. Subsequent purchases and subscriptions would also be attributed to the original seeder (again me).
This method has been tried for years by many startups. I have personally seen many companies that have promised solutions, but never delivered. A real time chat room or re-played chatroom next to video content isn’t what anyone is really looking for. They want to share their thoughts about something when its over with their friends in real time. This is today solved by Twitter and Facebook – usually in a hard to follow thread of comments.
The real time (somewhat solved by Twitter today) and post watch need for a watercooler is very prevalent. Some friends even wanted to chat about it as soon as they were done watching. Why can’t Showtime (or someone else for that matter) give us a place to have this conversation. I am much less excited about this opportunity, but if it offsets the cost of all-you-can-eat cable and gets us to the a-la-carte model faster than so be it.
The problem with an immediate consumption based behavior means that only true a-la-carte cable pricing would suffice. This would mean an ever growing firehose of video on demand, available at a clicks notice. Since this is not going to happen anytime soon, this affiliate model would work quite well.
Based on the reactions of some of my various friends, its clear this would have resulted in views of Homeland from a single tweet, which in an affiliate model would have ultimately been good for the show, good for me, and great for Showtime.