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Summary:

Today’s news that ABC and Ooyala are testing 99-cent video streams for episodes of the ABC Family show 10 Things I Hate About You brings up an interesting question: What is an episode of a popular TV show worth to its viewers? ABC is trying to […]

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Today’s news that ABC and Ooyala are testing 99-cent video streams for episodes of the ABC Family show 10 Things I Hate About You brings up an interesting question: What is an episode of a popular TV show worth to its viewers?

ABC is trying to sweeten the deal by not only offering new episodes of 10 Things I Hate About You commercial-free, but also establishing a new pay-per-view window: Paying viewers get access to 10 Things the day after it aired on cable. Don’t want to pay? Just wait three more days, and you’re gonna get the whole episode for free, with commercials. That sounds like an interesting proposition — but will it work?

Efforts to get viewers to pay for single TV show episodes have so far only resulted in lackluster returns. The New York Times reported in February that iTunes users have downloaded around 375 million TV show episodes in the four-and-a-half years since Apple started to peddle TV fare in late 2005. That’s less than 100 million downloads per year, and we don’t even know how many of those have been promotional — that is, free.

Apple’s competition, from Sonic Solution’s Roxio CinemaNow to Amazon’s Video On Demand, didn’t seem to do much better: ScreenDigest estimated recently that the entire industry only made $291 million from download-to-own sales and Internet VOD sales of TV shows and movies in 2009.

Compare that with Hulu’s 912 million streams per month, and it becomes clear that consumers have voted against paying $1.99 per TV episode. The question is: Would it help to slash the price in half, a plan that Apple reportedly had for the iPad? And will windows help, or will they drive users of free services back to piracy? Let us know what you think by answering this quick poll, and feel free to elaborate in the comments!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Realtor Susan.

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  1. They would have to come up with far better content. There is not a single US network show that I still watch, so no – I wouldn’t pay for something that I don’t watch when it’s free.

  2. I’m only on the periphery of this discussion, but, I’ve had two in-depth conversations today about paid v. free internet television, and each time, it comes down to: I pay for Netflix, I pay for Cable, I’m not paying for anything else.

    We know what we get for our money with REDBOX, COMCAST and NETFLIX (I use all). We have a sense of the value of filmed content.

    So, one lousy TV episode for .99 cents? It’s a rip off, comparatively speaking. If I can rent a Feature that cost $100MM to produce for $1 (and which gives me 120 minutes of mind numbing amusement), what is a TV show that cost $1MM worth (that gives me :45 minutes of mind numbing amusement)?

    .19 cents? Maybe. And, I’ll accept a pre-roll with it. OK, I’ll go .29 cents if it’s a cable series and has some production value and edgy writing. But, not a penny more.

  3. Ameba (http://www.amebatv.com) has been doing this for almost a year now. Sure they only focus on children’s content but all of it is pay for play.

    I’m not sure why the broadcasters don’t offer an SVOD scheme for shows. Purchase access to a series: If you like Lost – pay $5/year for the season and all past episodes. Stop paying – lose access.

    If you look at how much you actually watch and divide it by the amount you pay for access (Cable/Sat/etc…) you usually come up with a pretty big cost/hour. Buying only the shows you want to watch, and having them delivered when you want them usually works out to a much lower cost/hour.

    I’d look at how some of these “Pirate” sites are doing things. They seem to listen to what the viewer is looking for, organize it in an easy to use way, and make it a one click to view scheme. Instead of fighting them, beat them at their own game and deliver good content at a great value point. I know it’s hard to beat Free but with universal access to content, Zero Day release and access to the entire series, as small fee would be easily palatable.

    Oh yea, wait, broadcasters still have to protect their deeply entrenched, archaic business model where the internet does not exist – never mind.

  4. This pay per view thing did not work at ALL.
    “10 Things” had a huge international fan base, in addition to those who just didn’t receive the network, so many people relied on the homepage to watch new episodes, but NO one wanted to pay.
    ABC Family CANCELED the show 5 episodes in because of low ratings.
    Viewers to the ABC Family homepage count toward total viewers, and they were lost, so ABC Family axed the show!!

  5. Milan Mijatovic Thursday, May 13, 2010

    If I go to the movies and pay about $10 – $12 dollars to watch a two hour movie, I’m paying about $5 or $6 per hour of entertainment. A TV show that’s 20 minutes (30 minutes minus the commercials) for 99 cents is still a good deal by comparison. That’s still just under $3 per hour.

    Give me the ability to watch my programming at my own pace, without commercials, and with the option to view it in HD and I will very likely pay 99 cents for the convenience.

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