Nickelodeon is launching an OTT service. Yes, basically it’s like Netflix, but just for Nickelodeon shows. That should be an awesome announcement, right? Well, in theory, yes, it should. However the reality is different. Nickelodeon is a major producer of animation in the US, and by launching an OTT service, it endangers the future of the artform.
No really, hear me out. I’ve waxed lyrical about Kickstarter projects before. I think it’s a great tool for the independent animator/producer who’s project is perhaps a bit too risky for a serious investor. Some great projects have found backing through it while others have stuttered to a halt despite 6-figures in backing; not naming any names. Yet Kickstarter could actually result in less animation being made. That sounds mad, right?
Although this was posted on r/AdventureTime today, I had to go and check it out for myself just to be sure. Here’s my actual screenshot (click to embiggen):
Nice isn’t it? Instead of a full episode of Adventure Time (or any other series), I’m greeted with a nice reminder that I don’t, in fact, have cable or satellite.
While I heartily laugh at the subtle suggestion that I start forking out and arm and/or leg for channels with more commercials than content, this screenshot nonetheless represents Cartoon Network shooting themselves in the foot and taking aim at Adventure Time fans too.
Why? The answer is simple. By restricting online streaming of full episodes, guess what that does? It not only inconveniences fans who want to catch up on the latest episode, it also directly prevents new fans of the series from increasing their enjoyment of the show. Surely the whole point of entertainment is to get as many eyeballs on it as you can, right?
Turner Broadcasting seems to think differently however, and would rather cut off fans both old and new from their favourite show, by extension reducing the audience and the market for any merchandise.
Now that is not to say that the show will disappear, even the post on reddit is called “This is why I torrent” alluding to the fact that the show really is that good. The downside for Turner and Cartoon Network is that any fan who moseys on over the torrents is a lost fan, one whose interest (and potentially money) is directed away from their operations.
If I were studio chief, I would have serious misgivings about seeing fans go elsewhere for the sake of ensuring that only paid-up subscribers see the legitimate stream.
Yesterday, it was announced that YouTube/Google had acquired Next New Networks. While this may not be of huge interest to those of you who tend to skip the business pages, it is nonetheless significant and will likely have some bearing on entertainment for years to come.
The reason is outlined in Fred Seibert (the co-founder of NNN) in his blog post announcing the sale. In it, he draws a lot of similarities between the current state of internet broadcasting and the fledgling cable networks back in the early 80s.
The similarities are, in fact, eerily similar. Back then, no-one really know how to make money, the established players were (extremely) wary of the new medium and the content that’s being offered wasn’t all that great (at least back then it wasn’t).
What does all of this have to do with animation? The answer is plain to see. Without cable, it is highly unlikely (impossible even) that we would have seen the explosion in animation that we saw with the three original Nicktoons, followed by the proliferation of creator-driven shows with (I suppose) a bump in animation at the movies too.
The originial Nicktoons didn’t come around for about 10 years after MTV. The reason for this was basically the lack of cable customers, which has a direct effect on the revenue of a network and as we all know, animation ain’t cheap.
Fast forward to today, and there exists a similar situation. People are embracing the internet but overall penetration is still way below cable, content will be king even more so than in cable and last but not least, even more money will be made by those who get it right.
Next New Networks may not be focused solely on animation (although it does broadcast Channel Frederator) but I think it is extremely likely that within 10 years, we will see a channel devoted solely to animation. Joe Murray is off to a great, early start with KaboingTV, which launches next month.
As the optimistic type, I think animation will continue to be a part of the entertainment landscape long after Comcast has been de-throned.
Think about it. Of all the cartoons broadcast on the major cable networks (the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon network), how many have had a bone fide DVD release. As those who have waited so long to watch their favourite show whenever they want, surprisingly few.
Starting with Disney, they are actually not as bad as I thought. A quick search of Amazon reveals that DuckTales (have their own store!), the Gummi Bears and Rescue Rangers are all for sale. Recent stuff is a wee bit harder to come across and while you can buy Phineas & Ferb, you can’t get illustrator extraordinaire, Dan Santat’s fantastic show The Replacements.
Nickelodeon fares a bit better, you can find all the classic Nicktoons as well as newer stuff available. The only caveat, they’re the “burn-on-demand” type. In other words, you can’t find the DVDs in shops because they don’t make them until you place an order. I appreciate this approach as you can get an industry-standard DVD with jewel case. The only downside? The cost is a bit on the expensive side, $36 for a 4-disc collection of Danny Phantom!
The Cartoon Network is perhaps the best of the bunch. Their list of shows is exhaustive if mainly confined to shows the network owns. Nonetheless it is nice to see shows such as HiHi Puffy AmiYumi (2nd hand only now) to Codename Kids Next Door receive proper releases. In addition, actual Warner Bros animation titles are available too, with shows such as Batman: The Animated Series for sale in full, most likely as a result of the nature of comic book fans no doubt.
Cartoon Network does have one nasty habit though. They have, on numerous occasions, begun to release DVDs of a show only to stop halfway through leaving collectors and fans holding the bag until they release the full series a few years down the road. It happened with the PowerPuff Girls and is currently the situation with Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Personally I will be quite annoyed if I bought two volumes of episodes and then had to go out and buy the whole series only to fill in the episodes I missed.
With the advent of video-on-demand (VOD) the whole concept of a DVD release may become moot anyway. With the likes of iTunes already offering a whole season’s subscription to shows like the currently-being-broadcast Adventure Time and my one of my all-time favourites, My Life as a Teenage Robot, the time may come where we won’t even care if a show is released on DVD.