Picture This! Can Viewers Change the Course of TV?

March 7, 2013

Turning on the TV in a hotel is interesting, almost like an anthropological experience, going back to a past age to experience media. As I flip through, I kind of wonder who watches this stuff, reality shows, singing shows, endless talk shows and commercials. Then I always wonder, how come there are no documentaries – the stuff that I want to watch. Sure I’m a bit of a snob. We have a PVR at home – so we kind of choose what we want to watch.

So how does this stuff get on air. Ratings, I guess. Survivor gets good rating, which means other networks begin to plan Survivor knockoffs. It almost feels like a feedback loop. Something is successful, so we get endless copies. Fresh and original material seems to be the exception.

You wonder, why don’t broadcasters take more chances? Interesting question. And that’s why we are at SXSW talking to everyone about how technology is changing the conversation between media and their viewers.

Producing TV, or actually getting stuff produced on TV, is tough. Take an idea to a broadcaster and a typical reaction is, well this year we’re only looking for factual information centred around strong, TVQ-friendly subjects. Translation: go looking for a crazy character doing a crazy job, then play up the drama to make it seem even crazier. Sound familiar? Real stories are perceived of as a little boring.

Presenting to many of these execs is a little dispiriting. They pretend they are the gatekeepers, as if only they can understand what an audience truly wants.  Then they get their vision for a new show produced and push it out, onto their audience, the latest greatest singing, dating or reality show.

So, what if the model were a little different? What if viewers could request content, or ask questions on a news show. What if broadcasters pulled content or content ideas from their audience? What if a broadcaster had a real time feedback loop, that adapted content to viewer feedback?

Sure, it sounds a little crazy, but in a way it’s already happening. YouTube audiences choose their content. Talk radio and many TV talk shows rely on viewer input. How could that kind of model be overlaid on television?

Interesting question, and one we’re trying to answer with our series “Pull” being produced with TVO. We’re going to talk with the tech experts who are changing the feedback loop in all kinds of industries: entertainment, medicine, government, even not-for-profits, then we’re going to try and mirror what we learn and get our participants and viewers to ask their own questions.

Why can’t TV be more responsive? Why can’t we make the TV we want? Why can’t I have my documentaries?

Well, let’s see.  Maybe we can change that.


Q Collaboration - Mat Garbulinski


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