Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cuban needs help

Mark Cuban is taking TV show pitches for HDNet at his blog, which is a really cool thing. I know people who've worked in the TV industry here in LA for six years and have not pitched a show. Now whether something of substance comes out of it is another story. Will it be a case where transparency pays off, as a recent cover of Wired preached? Or will it be another Project Greenlight, which led Affleck/Damon to conclude that, well, maybe all the talent in show business is in LA?

(Of course, the fact that Greenlight produced crap and that 90% of what Hollywood produces is crap, may prove that what Hollywood needs is a revolution from the top down, i.e. new decision-makers and A-lists movie stars, i.e. maybe producers of the Affleck/Damon-sort have as much an idea as to what makes a good story as average joe sixpack. Mamet might agree.)

But Cuban needs help, in more than just story ideas, because HDNet is beginning to lose its appeal. I think Cuban knows this, and it's one of the reasons he's using avante-garde development tactics (in addition to the fact that he believes in the power of blogdom.)

Why? The initial draw for HDNet was its HD programming of course, and now that more networks are supplying HD content, there's less room for HDNet to distinguish itself on that basis alone. In the beginning they probably said, "How do we showcase HD? Sports, nature shows, chicks in bikinis." Done.

Planet Earth is the show HDNet should have had, but Discovery beat them to it. I think Cuban knows this as well. So now what?

Here's my suggestion:

HDNet becomes the HBO for the tech-savvy, bloggin', myspace generation. By HBO I mean highly-literate original content that does not in any way talk down to its audience. In fact, it does the reverse - it educates and at times confuses and frustrates (ex. Sopranos after season 3).

Now you might say there's a channel for this audience, it's G4? But G4 is trying to be MTV - worse than that, it's trying to be old MTV for video games. Let MTV die. Instead, how about putting the camera back on the tripod and asking an intelligent question, or simply telling a story? The content does not have to revolve around Technology per se, though a show set in an IT department (something between The Office and Office Space) is long overdue. But how about a channel that, when choosing its programs, assumes the following of its audience:
  • They are well-educated, computer-savvy, web-savvy, blog-savvy.
  • They research the products they buy for hours in their spare time and therefore could care less about 30 second ads.
  • If they feel they're being preached to or talked-down to, they'll change the channel or turn on the laptop.
The days of wanting to see something "just because it's in HD" are waning - I believe Planet Earth is both the apex of this urge and the demarcation of its decline. I want more "smart popular culture", but in HD. I think there's a space for it, and I think Cuban can fill it.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Love the ideas, love'em! What about a reality TV show for a big tech company like Microsoft, Oracle, Google, Apple. I'd definitely watch that.