Jules Watkins from the UK writes in with the following email:
Read your blog with interest.
I wanted to get an opinion. I am a TV Producer Director based in the UK and shoot and make shows for all the major networks eg BBC, Channel 4. Sky, MTV UK etc.
I want to break out of this and make shows I own the rights to. My idea is for 30 mins shows to put on download services like BT (as cable network that charges per view) as well as itunes and even direct from a purpose built site.
I realize short videos do well over time..but is there a demand for longer episodes especially as some download services play straight to your TV.
The shows will be niche eg video gaming doc with an entertaining twist and I am sure the exact angle isn't really available on mainstream TV.
My question is do you think people are ready to pay money for niche long form content other than big brand shows like Ugly Betty etc! or like ebooks and niche blogs will people pay say $4 - 6 $ for a show they just cant see anywhere else.
i estimate each 30 mins show to cost between $20000 and $30000 dollars to make, I will direct and shoot and rough edit and get an editor to polish and get a proper sound mix.
I can finance the first myself..am i taking to big a risk? Can I make a good profit?
I realize it would be good to get a sponsor first but as this would be a first for me doing it under my own name not via an established company it could be tricky to get cash in advance..maybe it would come after when I could show them it finished?
Thanks for the the email Jules.
I think it is possible to make long form niche content that people will pay for but you have to be very careful about what you make, how much it costs and how you market and promote that content.
My advise would be to do a test first of something that emotionally moves you personally is in a niche that you are passionate about and doesn't cost more than $5,000 to produce. For the sake of this conversation let's say that your child has been diagnosis with autism.
Creating a video that explains to parents what they can expect in dealing with an autistic child and how to cope with it as a family might be a long form niche video that people would pay for now. It wouldn't cost a lot to produce the video and if it was informative and actually gave good take away advice people would buy it for themselves and for friends and family.
In creating this Coping with Autism video I would also create a blog and an audio or video podcast that would build a conversation to develop an audience through contextual search. (I apologize to those of you who came here through search hoping to find a video about Coping with Autism - I'm just using this as an example.) This "audience conversation" is what makes the Internet so different and so much more powerful than traditional Television. I wish I could have a conversational audience with French Maid TV but the conversation that my viewers want to have with the French Maids are not the types of conversations that advertisers want to see their products next to - so I'm still noodling that one. Please let me know if you have any ideas.
A few other things to consider are:
1. Selling Long Form Video Online is Still a Pain in the Ass
Even though there are some download services that play straight to your TV, currently you can not sell long form independent videos on popular download sites like iTunes unless you are a major distributor. There are small sites out there and you could sell your own video on your own site but if you need to sell thousands of copies to recupe your costs it ain't going to happen unless you have lightening in a bottle, you are an expert at online viral marketing or you have a huge marketing budget.
2. You Don't Have a Huge Marketing Budget
Studios and TV Networks are the biggest costumers of Television advertising. TV Networks use their own air time to promote their own shows and movie studios use TV advertising to get your butt in the theater seat. You will have to come up with a marketing plan and incredible "Key Art" that will cut through the clutter or no one will ever find your long form video.
3. You Don't Have a Huge Marketing Budget
I'm writing this one again because most of us independent content creators are passionate about our creations to the point of impairing our hearing and our good judgment. We love our own projects so much that it's hard to believe that no one would consider buying our interactive DVD / digital yarn about a woman getting revenge on her married ex-lover through building a "tell all" Vlog with videos and photos of his escapades with other women. (Let me know if you want to buy a copy for $10. I still have a few left.)
4. The Market Place Isn't Built Yet
This point pretty much echoes the fact that it's a pain in the ass to sell long form video online but the fact of the matter is most people like to watch long form video on their TV and there is still no easy way (as in changing a channel easy) to get content from the Internet to your TV.
All that said, I think it's fairly unlikely that right now you could spend $20,000 on a long form video and see a return on your investment unless you have something that is really, really, really great, people want it and they can't get anything like it anywhere else, you are a master of viral marketing or you have a huge marketing budget.
I am aware of several new websites that are creating portals where you will be able to sell your long form online videos and audiences will be able to watch them on TV without a ton of hassle so the market place is being built. Think of the music industry and study who has been a successful online artist and what they have done to sell there songs online.
Once you are able to discover and watch any Internet video on your TV with the same ease of use of discovering and listening to music on your PC you will be able to produce and sell your own long form content but until then I say keep your content short, use it to set the stage for your long form videos and start putting that viral marketing plan together because you are going to need something really special to cut through the clutter.
I'm not saying, "Don't do it." I'm saying, "Don't do it just yet."
Someone is going to be able to produce and sell a video online that is going to make millions of Pounds and that someone might be you.
Thanks again for the email Jules. Let's keep the conversation going.