I realize not everyone shares my opinion that Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but then again, clearly there are a lot of people in the world with no taste in television. (Um, Deal or No Deal? Really?) What’s interesting is that the demographic of people who are watching and enjoying Dollhouse may contribute to its demise. Numbers show that Dollhouse gets one of the highest percentages of DVR viewers among network shows and has been a major hit on iTunes. Unfortunately, DVR and online audiences don’t count for much with advertisers. The show would rake in a lot more money if we all watched it live.
The lost cash comes from the fact that DVRs enable ad skipping, and online video audiences and CPMs are tiny compared to broadcast TV. As Dan Rayburn has also pointed out, it takes money to distribute video online – encoding, storage, management, and actual delivery – which makes short work of the dollars online advertising and download fees do bring in.
So what does this mean? New TV technology may be contributing to the types of shows that succeed or fail. So much for enabling the long tail of television. Programs still need large audiences of live viewers to survive.