Microcable is Finally Here...Kinda
Today, Amazon released a batch of 14 pilots, all of which are available for the public to view, rate, and comment on. Amazon executives will have - for the first time in the history of "television" - the distinct advantage of knowing which shows the audience actually wants to see! About friggin' time. This isn't exactly microcable (I still believe finding and developing niche audiences through exclusive, limited distribution is more effective), but it's a major step in the right direction. Television/'web series' development should be done like this. The audience - the most important shareholder in the entire value chain - needs to be the decider, ultimately, of what goes and stays on air. In a way they always have been; Nielsen ratings generally dictate what shows get canceled and which are renewed. Still, that's too far down the line and too removed considering the tools media companies have at their fingertips. Amazon's approach dramatically shifts forward the audience's role. This is a great thing.
As a content creator and a believer in (intelligently implemented) video distribution disruption, this is a great sign of things to come. Combine it with the changing release strategies (ex. House of Cards), flexible 'platform agnostic' content formats, increasingly fractal audiences, and the breakdown of non-consumer friendly bundling (ex. HBO's inevitable direct to audience approach), and it's clear that the conventions of big media are finally being crushed. The results, for better or worse, will be a more empowered audience, a much more fickle market for shows, but also a more democratic approach to entertainment.