Everyone in the tech & TV
industries is passing around this speech by Kevin Spacey.
On August 26, 2013 Kevin Spacey took the stage at the
Guardian Edinburgh International
Television Festival to give the keynote address,
called the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, and
delivered a stirring speech about the future of TV.
We can save the TV industry $300-400,000,000/year by eliminating series "pilots" which
have a worse than 90% failure rate and thus, do not predict the success or failure
of a series.
Netflix produced "House of Cards" starring Spacey, releasing
all 12 episodes for Season 1 at once.
This proves that "the audience
wants control, they want the freedom. If they want to binge, . . . let them binge!"
In fact, this disproves the complaint that audiences have increasingly short
attention spans if "they can watch an entire season of a TV show in one
"When the story is good enough, people can watch something three times
the length of an opera!"
(Eight second applause break.)
Audiences want quality and talent wants artistic freedom:
innovation and financial success must go hand-in-hand.
Aim higher rather than play it safe, and have patience:
"Breaking Bad" was
a slow starter on TV that did not find wide acceptance until re-shown on Netflix and repeated on American Movie Channel to build audience.
Positive buzz and quality of audience
gave more awareness than the early rating suggested, and were critical in building
"The Sopranos" took four seasons before reaching its apex and "Seinfeld" took
five years to make it into the Nielsen's top 30.
Having a commitment to ideas and keeping faith in the talent & a good show
"has to be preferable to a pilot system that just throws everything
thing up on a wall and hopes something sticks!"
In 1998, with the success of "The Sopranos," talent found more freedom on TV
than in the film industry:
TV took over with more sophisticated stories
just as the Internet was maturing to provide different delivery systems for product.
Therefore, audiences will seek content providers who give them what they demand;
i.e., complex, smart stories available whenever they want and on whatever device
The risk now is to become too institutionalized by relying on just what is working
Cameras are platform agnostic. And to audiences, it is all content: "It's
We must "observe, adapt and try things to discover appetites we didn't
know were there."
It is a myth to think that no one knows what works, that it is all a crap shoot:
•professionals do know what works.
"Not one of us in this room will ever see a 30
share in our lifetime,
and it's a wonderful, freeing thing."
("The Cosby Show" in 1986-1987 is the last weekly TV show, network
or cable, to get better than a 30 share in the Nielsen rating at a 34.9 share.)
Netflix placed targeted marketing and brand higher than ratings.
We no longer live in a world of by-appointment viewing.
The water cooler has gone online.
Stories are the great leveler, crossing borders to unite audiences.
"We have to work just a little bit harder to share these experiences together,
and try not to ignore each other quite so much."
(Standing ovation, 52 seconds: definitely a headliner!)
Here is the highlights version (4:55):
And here is the full
version which is literally ten times longer(46:53) with some extra treats:
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