Calendar seasons change, but routines stay the same. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall come and go every year since the beginning of time. They are the cycle of life. Much of what we do is based upon them.
There is also the type of season, or "saison" that Rimbaud wrote about, the type of season that marks an 'era', a moment in time defined by something extraordinary or of particular note.
Media is no different.
The content we view, along with the advertising commercials that support it, are based on seasonal spending habits and "les trends de la saison".
Most of the work we do in the creative industry is based on the way seasons govern spending trends. Seasons like Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, and also "saisons" associated with trends and fads.
Winter delivers family classics in time for the holidays, along with endless suggestions for gift ideas and spending.
Spring means the start of the baseball season with thousands of commercials and sponsorships.
Summer delivers blockbuster movies to the big screen that not only wow the audiences but also inspire fast food cross promotions.
Fall is when prime time shows reset and we reunite with our favorite characters, framed by new television commercial "creative" and "campaigns".
This got me thinking about the web.
Does the web work the same way, or does it have autonomy from time and space?
Do the rules of time that strictly govern the production of offline content and advertising support for content such as movies, television shows, and sporting events apply to the web?
Of course it does! Let me draw a parallel between an old success story on the web and a new one I think may be emerging quickly ...
Sports entertainment has always had a precocious aptitude for garnering a large online audience. Sports have had a strong online persona since the beginning of the web.
Player statistics, pictures, schedules, fantasy leagues, rumors and standings have all been readily available for rabid sports fans to gorge themselves on during the season and well into the off season. Sports enthusiasts have consistently flocked to sports web sites for additional content in order to fuel their fierce spirit of competition and support for their team.
Sports fans are known to scour the earth for additional tidbits about upcoming games or drama swirling around player's lives in order to build a sense of anticipation between games.
I am sure wagering has a bit to do with it as well.
Sports Leagues adhere to a seasonal structure that confines its high points to a specific time of the year. The intensity focuses millions of fans towards these points, along with their sponsors and advertisers. They have become year-round entertainment outlets. Hungry fans nibble all year long while waiting for their favorite team or player to return to action.
The Last Season
A "season" is a term used to describe a regular run of episodes on TV. A season of a television series might consist of 22–24 episodes shown on a regular basis between September and May, with some down time during the holidays. This is often referred to as a non-stop season, usually used for serial television, like 'Lost' or '24'. Some networks may put together 18–22 episodes between September and December or January and May.
Another example might be a series that airs only a 6–13 episode season during the summer as a means to test out a show's ability to stick through a season and beyond.
With the addition of the web we now have a powerful tool that is used to gauge the publics interest level for new ideas and concepts. The web has now instantly connected the audience directly with networks and sponsors, giving them a direct feed as to what viewers really want.
The web has exposed television as a strictly passive activity, Viewers want to participate in the "show", the audience wants much more in between episodes.
The concept of time is a critical factor on the web because it has become the negative space (in time) that if not filled, becomes a gaping hole in the relationship between viewers and "their" shows.
The evolution of the web is forcing television programs to offer more web content than the traditional cast bios, episode lists, and other shallow online features typically associated with show websites of the past.
Since the very beginning of the "TV show", people have been crazy about "their shows" often referring to a show as "my show", or "my program".
In the 80s and early 90s people's lives in the United States were scheduled around NBC's Thursday night lineup focused on 'Cheers', 'The Cosby Show', 'Family Ties', 'A Different World', 'Seinfeld' and 'Frazier', and advertisers and marketers paid top dollar to get in front of the millions of viewers fixated to their television screens.
Today, who would dare miss a Sunday night 'Simpsons' or a new episode of 'Lost'? A finale of 'American Idol' or a girls' night in with 'Grey's Anatomy', 'Project Runway', or 'The Starter Wife'?
Network execs are starting to recognize that audiences expect more from the shows they watch on television, that reruns no longer have a chance of keeping viewers on ice for weeks or months.
The availability of new types of media on the web and mobile devices are distracting once loyal viewers from television. Fresh and different content is available anywhere and audiences are drawn to new forms of entertainment all the time. The web has loosened the ties to the Thursday night prime time line up and the Sunday night routine.
La Saison de Television Internet
The web, being as awesome as it is, has the ability to strengthen those ties once again.
Television has officially thrown its hat into the virtual ring. It is "la saison de television Internet".
Audiences want something to hold them over to the next episode not just the next season. Fans want to swim in the shows they love. They want to step into the lives of the characters, they want to play out storylines, and they want to drown themselves in content.
Relationships with pop culture have become more intimate than ever. Fans want to enjoy reruns on demand, discuss the show in detail with other hard core viewers, play branded games that follow story lines and get closer to the characters that they love, all online.
Ok, here is the part of the article in which I date myself. Don't make fun!
Imagine if 'Cheers' or 'Taxi' had a web site.
You would be able to match wits with Cliff Claven playing the "Cliff Claven Trivia Challenge" or log in to guess how many beers Norm had in one episode or get analyzed by Frazier.
Just think how fun a Jim Ignatowski clip mash up would be or have Danny DeVito send out a prank phone message from his cage game, the possibilities are endless.
I never got to peek into the lives of the girls on The Facts of Life, nor did I ever get to play a game based around the Cosby kids or take a virtual exam at Hillman college and I certainly never got to see if Punky Brewster had a dark side we didn't know about.
How cool would it have been to have voted online for Valerie's replacement on the Hogan Family or to have had a subservient Alf to control online? To have been able to submit a hot social issue to be covered on 'Family Ties' or to have mourned the loss of Coach on 'Cheers' by attending a cyber memorial service?
Network executives and creative professionals are starting to understand how important a role the web is in support of television content.
The speed of our medium allows experienced web professionals to develop timely, specific, episodic, interactive content that appears online as soon as the show is over, and in some cases can even kick in while the show is on.
New shows like 'The Office' from NBC Universal have hundreds of thousands of viewers logging on every week to view webisodes, additional content and games. To get deeper into the lives of the cast, to live through some of the shows social metaphors and to play out their own connections with specific characters.
Even an old classic like 'As The World Turns' has a website that takes you deep behind the scenes. It publishes content to its fan base almost daily, including full episodes, shortened recaps, exclusive news, video interviews with cast members, and social network functionality.
Users can upload videos to become fan of the month and they can participate in a 'tell us' section, where they can share their views with other visitors in the form of video testimonials about select topics and storylines.
Movies and television drove pop culture for a long time. The web is now grabbing the baton by extending those stories and shows and the character personalities that influence our society and shape our culture, for better or for worse.
Stay tuned to the evolution of the television show companion website. Shows are now expected to last all year long, by a supporting incarnation of the show in a web format. The web will be a testament to a show's substance and vigor. It will force it to be "on" more often, and compel it to be more connected with its viewers, more integrated with sponsors, and – the most important part – more responsible for delivering quality entertainment.
The masses are no longer held hostage by four or five national networks. For decades, television viewers have been forced to choose between the least of all evils when picking their "shows".
There are six hundred million "channels" to on the web. Anyone can purchase a URL and start a broadcast network. Eyeballs can wander to the "best" content, not the best content "available".
The "saison" is over.
About the Editor, Craig Elimeliah
Having designed, developed and now executive producer for some of the most successful online interactive projects for over 10 years now, Craig Elimeliah represents a new breed of web professionals who is helping to mainstream the interactive realm. Now the Senior Executive Producer at Freedom + Partners, Craig is working with top agencies and high profile clients understand how to develop and integrate traditional advertising onto the web and to establish new standards for the future of online advertising.