Digital Content, Niche Networks Creating Non-Traditional Opportunities for Producers (Guest Blog)

By giving consumers the power to control their viewing habits, we are seeing more opportunities

In her recent Hollyblog “Independent TV Financing in the Digital Age: Who’s In,” lawyer Alissa Miller discusses the proliferation of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube/Google, Amazon and other digital distribution platforms.

She says, “In order to attract an extensive group of subscribers, digital distributors need to continue to provide an immense amount of original, high-quality content” and, “as a result, more producers have been able to enter the market to fill the demand for content, and the need for independent financing for new productions has increased.”

I recently experienced being one of these producers firsthand while both setting out to find the financing for and then producing the new show “On Begley Street,” which launched last month on Evox Television Networks. The show’s first season of nine episodes centers around the Begley family’s efforts at tearing down an entire house (of which 96% of the material was donated to Habitat for Humanity) in order to make way for the building of a new platinum-LEED residence, which will be the focus of the second season. Of course, along with watching this passionate family do this, we are also privy to their daily examples of living a lifestyle that paves way for a more sustainable planet.

When I was first approached about the idea for this show through my longtime friend, co-producer, Green Wish founder and co-star of ABC’s current hit series “Once Upon a Time” Raphael Sbarge, I was curious.

I was aware of Ed Begley, Jr. from his acting career and knew he was an ardent environmentalist and although I cared about the environment, I didn’t really know all that much about what being green truly embodied. When I met with Ed, though, and learned more about him, his wife Rachelle, their daughter Hayden and the passionate way they lived, I was hooked. Not only did I find this passion contagious (I have since become way more conscious about my global footprint) but also I truly enjoyed learning the ins and outs of this whole new digital age of providing niche content to a niche audience.

You see, I have been a Los Angeles-based producer for 20 years and have always been prone to produce content for a traditional television viewership.

In reality, with today’s populist, intuitive technologies the technical side of producing content for the masses is relatively similar across old and new distribution platforms. What does change in a perhaps more favorable light is the direct-to-audience guarantee you have with niche-targeted digital content on digital networks that you don’t get with traditional television.

While filming for “On Begley Street” we were able to have a more organic conversation with our future audience. This is because from the beginning we knew whom we were inevitably speaking to in our viewers. We knew they would be pre-qualified as people interested in green living, sustainable lifestyles, education about environmentally correct living and positive entertainment.

Another cool side-effect of producing content for digital spaces is that you get an instant potential for viral marketing and social media promotion directed with a click right to the show’s home space. Rather than relying solely on standard commercials and advertising campaigns to build buzz and draw viewers, you also have the potential for a mass movement of word-of-mouth and “sharing” and “liking” referrals from across the web-o-sphere that can quickly mushroom exponentially to numbers of eyeballs that bypass a traditionally targeted reach. Normally, if your show’s ratings were down, you wouldn’t have a show. Today as long as people are talking about you and sharing and viewing it, you stay in the forefront.

For “On Begley Street” this meant instant access to watchers across all kinds of social media platforms and interest groups ranging from green fans to Begley fans to architecture junkies, etc., without the normal dollars spent researching and fine-tuning advertising to these niche markets across historical broadcast and print mediums.

I still love traditional television and my work with the major networks but I am equally excited about this brave new medium. By giving consumers the power to control their viewing habits, we are seeing more opportunities for producers, writers, directors, and creatives to be successful in an industry where the possibilities suddenly seem endless.