Jeff Jarvis notes how much extra cost there is in TV production:
On the way to one of three meetings I happened to have this week with people who are starting new, lightweight networks — because the internet lets them — I walked by a location shoot for a TV show. We see them all the time, we jaded New Yorkers, and so we’re never amazed. But what does not cease to amaze me is all the stuff it takes — or they think it takes — to shoot a show: trucks filled with lights and cables and plugs, handcarts filled just with the director’s chairs with stars names on the back, bins overflowing even with wooden boxes with the Paramount logo on the side, assistant directors running around trying to act more important than the snotty gophers they are, catering trucks with expensive caterers: expense everywhere.
I mentioned last week that I thought TV would hold up against the "DIY" juggernaught, but I could be wrong - there's a lot of extra cost mentioned above. How much do you really need, if you just want to capture a scene, and are willing to use actors who don't have egos the size of Montana?
I don't know the answer - I suspect know one does, yet - but there are tons of amateur and semi-pro actors around - many of them are doing part time local theater. Would they be willing to do full-time drama for a lot less than the cost for (insert star here)? I expect the answer is yes. Jeff touches on that, and other costs, here:
Do they really need all that to shoot three minutes of obvious primetime drama? Of course, they don’t. Studio and network executives have lamented the cost for a long time, but they haven’t been able to change it. That’s how TV is made — or that’s how the priests of the TV tools told us it is made. But with ratings and now revenue facing merciless shrinkage, the networks will attack this cost structure. The first, stupid response was to invent stupid, cheap, reality shows: NBC’s answer to its declining economics was to declare defeat at shovel us **** at 8 p.m.
I predict that one smarter network will soon discover a show made cheap, handheld cameras, no location trucks, no gaffers, no ADs, no caterers, and no numbing studio structure but lots of creativity and passion and independence: a show made by one of those three ventures I met with this week. That show will go on the air and be a hit, not because of how it is shot but because of what it says. The networks will discover that they can get quality TV that is still popular — not as popular as the blockbusters of old, yes, but popular enough to be profitable so long as the costs are low. That will be great news for the creative class, because it will lower the barrier to an audience. And that will be good news for us, formerly known as the audience, because we’ll see TV that is valued for its creativity over its infrastructure.
Consider RocketBoom - it's not a newscast in the same sense that the evening news is, but it easily could be (or something like it could be). How much lower do you think Andrew's production costs are? Now apply that thought to entertainment shows, using actors who make average salaries (instead of millions per show). Further imagine that said shows show up on iTunes, with some kind of slipstreamed ads (product placement, short spots) for free download.
Now you start to understand why the studios want a DRM wall between your PC and your TV - the last thing they want is inexpensive (and inexpensively produced) content streaming to the living room TV. They would much rather keep you on their plantation. What's going on now is a modern-day replay of the luddite's war against mechanical looms - only with the media machine cast into the part of Ned Ludd.