Magazine article Metro Magazine

Swimming Upstream: Crowdfunding as a New Type of Pay TV

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Swimming Upstream: Crowdfunding as a New Type of Pay TV

Article excerpt

Television has gone through rapid changes in the last decade. As Raymond Williams famously contended in the mid 1970s, television is a technology and a cultural form--and in this post-digital era, both have adapted. Nonetheless, television is still something Williams would recognise; his famous notion of 'flow'--television's need to present content in the context of other distractions--remains just as relevant as it ever was.

Admittedly, Williams' ideas about set scheduling and predetermined programming have been significantly challenged of late. However, television remains what he knew it as--episodic, periodic, domestic and very much dependent on a mixture of communal and individual engagement all at once. We may watch television alone or in small groups, we may do so on a television, computer or mobile screen, but we are even more connected to the medium as a group activity than ever. In short, the television audience is part of the flow and help determine its direction now more than ever.

On one side, the former bosses of television --those who set the schedules, release dates and ad rates--have been nervous. They've gone so far as calling us, the audience, pirates. Indeed, when we won't sail in their waters or pay the toll to go under their bridges, then by their definition we are. But audiences are still in love with television--our passion for content quickly, repeatedly, internationally and on multiple formats proves that.

While one business model of television may be dying, another is flourishing: the development of crowdfunded television. In lots of ways, this isn't a revolution, as much of television has been 'crowdfunded' from the very beginning. Think about how 'free-to-air' works--it's not really free but, rather, is funded by the advertising directed at us, the audience. With the exception of publicly funded broadcasters and the odd place with a licence fee (as in the famous BBC model), you could say that most television has been crowdfunded for most of its life. The difference now is that television is crowdfunded via new platforms like Pozible, Kickstarter and even--the apparent enemy of entertainment commerce--BitTorrent. In each case, audiences have taken control of the flow of television even before there was a significant piece of content to control.

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Numerous examples of this are cropping up, and it's not exclusively start-ups or single media projects that are benefiting. Famously, the cancelled Veronica Mars series was remade via crowdfunding seven years after it had been taken off the air. Writer/director Rob Thomas ran a Kickstarter campaign that he hoped would get him a cool US$2 million to make a film to complete the series, but in the end some 91,585 fans pledged a total of US$5,702,153. Although the campaign ended in April 2013 and the film was released in March this year, the campaign's page continues to be hosted on the Kickstarter website, which proudly celebrates the television-to-film project as:

* Fastest project to reach [US]$1 million.

* Fastest project to reach [US]$2 million.

* All-time highest-funded project in FILM category.

* Third highest-funded project in Kickstarter history.

* Most project backers of any project in Kickstarter history. …

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