Saving the Poor by Dodging Bullets: When “Conventional” no longer equals “Safe”

In an extremely competitive marketplace, why be expensively mediocre?

I’m fascinated by the promos for NBC’s new summer series and they way they seem to embody a whole Big Media mindset.

Despite being a multitasking, distracted, TV watcher, I’ve seen enough promos for NBC’s new show “The Philanthropist” to tell you the plot (a billionaire saves a poor African boy and realizes that he should use his wealth to help people while getting shot at a lot), the actors (Neve Campbell, finally out of “Scream” residuals; the big guy from “Rent”; the fellow who quit “V for Vendetta”; Omar), and the big action beats (a helicopter is involved). What I can’t tell you is why anyone would watch the show. The previews seem determined to exactly mimic the promotional material of every show, failed and not, that’s come before.

A successful television series is a franchise that can produce huge revenues for years and years, but the failure rate for new shows is French Revolution conviction rate high. Why, then, would a network aim to create a promotional campaign that’s, but for the particulars, completely generic?

My guess would be fear.

For someone to be unconventional in their promotion of a show is to fully own its failure if it, like nearly all new show, fails to catch on. Being conventional is, on an employee to employee level, safe. Hey, you’re just doing what everyone else does.

Being conventional also makes it far less likely that a passionate audience will develop around a property.

It seems to me that media companies can no longer afford to operate from a default position of fear. If they want to stop doing so, however, they need to change their culture and how success and failure are interpreted. When the odds are already stacked against you, “conventional” is no longer synonymous with “safe.”

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Saving the Poor by Dodging Bullets: When “Conventional” no longer equals “Safe”