California, Politics

I Want My MTV?????

I want to start a music video company.

I want to hire music video directors and put them on staff, hire creative department heads, get equipment and start cranking out videos for Head Bangers Ball and for Yo! MTV Raps

.Maybe Warner Bros. Records will hire me to do a video with a major artist like Sting or Madonna, and get paid $200,000 to make a four minute music video. That’s the ticket. Then once I’m in the door, I can grow my company so that it’s as big a company as Palomar Pictures, or Propaganda.

Once there, it’s an easy hop to producing and directing commercials, and then creating a feature division and start doing movies. But my bread and butter will come from the constant stream of music videos I will produce. I can crank them out better and faster than anyone, and every music group or artist needs one.

As outdated as that sounds, that was how UCLA Film School fellow graduates and early career colleagues of mine talked in the early 1990’s.

Then, Bunim Murray Productions created a show called The Real World, and MTV stopped being about music videos, and a mini-industry died. When was the last time you saw a music video on regular TV, not on Youtube? It’s crazy how much things change in twenty years.

Now what do you think when I write this? I want to start a TV production company. Specifically, I want to start a TV production company and create content for all those cable channels.

Ten years ago, that didn’t seem like such a crazy statement. Six years ago, just before the economic downturn and just before the first iPhone came out, it still wasn’t a crazy statement. Today, saying you want to start a TV production company for cable is now as crazy as saying you want to start a music video company.

So much has changed. Remember Sting singing “I want my MTV,” all in high notes? That drove more people to get basic cable and start shelling out $30, then $45 and then $85 a month for cable TV to get hundred channels and endless choice, most of it bad.

But people like their trashy shows, mixed in with some quality, and they love sports, lots of sports, and with that, cable TV exploded. I remember HBO trying to stand out from the crowd by promoting themselves as being a step above -- “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” They took flak for that (it is TV), but I paid $85 a month to get The Sopranos, just like everybody else. Yet this was in the Motley Fool a few weeks back:

Comcast’s $2.2 Trillion Nightmare

Imagine what cable companies would do if everyone stopped watching...

Well, after some number-crunching, The Motley Fool determined that industry big wigs like Comcast would lose $2.2 trillion! And tech moguls like Apple and Google are convinced that Comcast’s nightmare scenario is approaching faster than you think...

Experts are calling it "The Death of Cable TV." All because 3 little-known companies could allow 99% of Americans to drop their cable bills - and bankrupt Comcast - by 2014!

My most recent job proves the paragraphs above. I spent the second half of my summer working hard and being well paid by Bunim Murray Productions to produce a pilot for for the cable TV network Style

.That’s the reason I stopped writing this weekly blog. I was working on a pilot instead, and it came first. But on the day before I delivered my first cut to the network, Comcast and NBC Universal announced that The Style Network was becoming The Esquire Network for men, and it would be happening in three weeks. Many people lost their jobs overnight.

This rapid change happens in radio all the time, when the classic rock station becomes a country station in a night. Now cable TV changes almost as fast. I still got paid, I still did a good job, and I expect it will air somewhere. It may even become a series somewhere.

Mostly, I am glad that I got to work at Bunim Murray Productions again, after a decade away. And it doesn’t feel like they’re going anywhere, either; it’s the networks that will be going away. I have felt the scramble in cable for about five years -- I helped produce a show called Southern Belles for SoapNet, and there were huge billboards for the first season in Times Square in New York City -- and in less than five years, The Disney Company shuttered that network.

I still get plenty of work in cable TV -- producing, directing, writing and editing -- and I’m thankful for it. But I do feel like I’m moving deck chairs on the Titanic when I get notes from these networks. No one working in cable knows where they will be in five years.

Production companies will still be around, and content will still be produced -- whether it’s for Youtube, Netflix, AOL, direct download, or a subscription through an app on your iPad, iPhone, or Internet TV -- no one knows.

Bunim Murray Productions, Vin di Bona Productions, Fishbowl Worldwide Media, and Worlds of Wonder are TV production companies at which I’ve worked in the two years, and all are already producing programming directly for the Internet. These companies are nimble and change quickly.

They are all already planning for the next generation of programming. What does the viewer want? Eight 30-minute shows? Or thirty 8-minute shows? They can deliver the content, and they will be fine. What you don’t want to do is start a music video production company, or a TV production company servicing the cable industry. Even if you manage to sell three shows, if the network goes under and you have overhead costs...that’s bad news.

And I have another confession to make.

I myself don’t even purchase cable TV anymore. I gave it up for good ten months ago, and any show that I want to watch I either can find on-line through Netflix, Apple TV and iTunes, Amazon or Hulu. I can rent or purchase a la carte and keep up with anything -- and still stay current with all the trends in programming and thus remain employable. I am an anachronism, living proof of what I write.

Will I miss cable TV? Not really. I paid $85 a month and still had to watch commercials, which is why I got TIVO. And then I got rid of that too. Cable TV was cutting edge at one time, but it feels like it will have a thirty year run and be gone. It will be replaced by apps on tablets and phones, and Internet Portals.

Can Comcast morph into something new? So that instead of going to Channel 67 to watch the Esquire Channel I hit the Esquire button on my iPad and experience programming for men that way?

Maybe, but they better move quick. Will I miss producing for cable TV? Not really. My daily work hasn’t changed much in five years, although the landscape has. I’ll still be producing, directing, writing and editing something and making a living somehow. I might have to do it cheaper and faster and better, but that’s always the case now, especially since 2008. I’ll go to whatever company needs my help telling a story, and maybe sometimes sell a few of my own.

Producers, directors, writers -- how has your work changed?