Saturday, September 17, 2005

Note to Hollywood: what you can learn from The Daily Show

Great interview in Wired with Daily Show host Jon Stewart and his partner Ben Karlin.

Here are two key excerpts to provide food for thought for those Hollywood types who want to muck with iTunes Music Store's success and want to turn TiVo into a mini-anti-fair-use machine:

In the six years since Stewart took over, the audience for The Daily Show has grown almost threefold to 1.4 million viewers a night. It boasts a legion of young, smart fans who are among the most demographically desirable audiences in the industry - further collapsing the caste distinctions between networks and cable. It has raised the bar for tie-ins, with a best-seller (America [The Book] has sold a stunning 2.5 million copies), a hit DVD (Indecision 2004), and - starting in October - a full-fledged spinoff (The Colbert Report). And The Daily Show may be the most popular TV program on the Internet.


"Ben Karlin: "If people want to take the show in various forms, I'd say go. But when you're a part of something successful and meaningful, the rule book says don't try to analyze it too much or dissect it. You shouldn't say: "I really want to know what fans think. I really want to understand how people are digesting our show." Because that is one of those things that you truly have no control over. The one thing that you have control over is the content of the show. But how people are reacting to it, how it's being shared, how it's being discussed, all that other stuff, is absolutely beyond your ability to control."

So, let me get this straight: the Daily Show is one of the most heavily, let's say it, pirated TV shows out there. People are trading it online and therefore doing a lot worse than just skipping commercials (which TV exec types believe is literally "stealing" content.)

But what's the outcome? Huge loss in revenues? No, quite the opposite. TDS has built a cult following that buys their tie-in products without much serious consideration. They would probably buy a DVD of Stewart's home movies of his kid if it came with a Stewart commentary track. (Feel free to use the idea guys!)

I've been reading JD Lasica's Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and while I don't have quite the level of laissez-faire attitude that some digital freedom fighters have, I can certainly see that "Internet abuse" of The Daily Show has paid dividends for everyone involved.

Food for thought, Hollywood.

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