Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pilots on a Plane

Flying home from Cleveland today, the plane's video monitors showed eps of ''Four Kings,'' ''Joey'' and ''Out of Practice'' to fill air time after the featured selection. While I spied passengers actually watch these crappy shows, I had a thought.

During pilot season, network execs should screen TV pilots on airplanes for viewer feedback.

I know your first thoughts. "That's an awful idea. The monitors are small. You have to wear headphones. Video and audio quality suck. You're interrupted by pilot announcements, flight attendants with food service, and fellow passengers with bathroom issues."

I had those same thoughts, but then I really thought about it. Just hear me out.
  • Audience Interaction: Right now when studios screen pilot eps, they usually show the eps in a conference hall or movie theater to a large audience. That's a fine idea for screening movies because moviegoers are meant to see the flick in the same environment — surrounded by and feeding off the reaction of other viewers. But TV is different. You don't watch it in a group; so why should you see the pilot with a vastly different audience dynamic? If you watch pilots on a plane, you'll experience the ep by yourself or, maybe, with one other person. That sounds about right for TV audiences — shows now average 1.2-1.6 viewers/household for network series. You'll never be able to watch pilots in your home because of secrecy and security issues, but studios can still strictly control distribution if they show pilots on a plane.

  • Interruptions: Are you worried that those plane interruptions will cause havoc and ruin your viewing experience? Sure, theater screenings don't allow as many opportunities for disruption, but how often do you watch a TV show at home without any distractions? No kids, no pets, no phone calls, no e-mail, no nothing. Hardly ever? That's what I thought. Pilots on a plane become even more desirable if each seat has its own video monitor — that way you can watch the show as if you were at home watching TV with a DVR.

  • Demographics: I've never designed or arranged a screening for TV pilots, but I assume that the studios would like to get 18-45 year-old big-time consumers to attend these screenings. That has to be hard. If they're frequent consumers, they're probably out working or buying stuff instead of attending a free screening. I assume that air travelers match the desired network demographics more closely than the people who currently attend theater screenings.

  • Money: No idea has legs if money — OK, greed — is not a prime motivator. Studios should save significant cash by showing pilots on a plane. No room rental. No audience recruiters. Studios can use a built-in theater with a captive audience. Airlines should earn some much-needed cash from studios since the airlines act as middle men. Passengers are not required to participate, but they can receive rewards — free drinks, frequent flier miles, tix for a raffle for free airfare.
Seems to me like pilots on a plane is a win-win-win situation for the studios, airlines and viewers.

1 comment:

Toby said...

Sounds like a great idea to me and I can't see how the networks would be spending too much more money to implement it.

Sure beats having to watch the same Thanksgiving themed episode of 'Hope & Faith' on both flights as I did going to L.A. last November!