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Amazon Pilot Season – do crowdsourced viewer votes point to the future of primetime television services?


If there’s one thing that demonstrates how far and how fast entertainment has moved since the early days of primetime, we really need look no further than the Amazon Pilot Season. Now in it’s third year, this unlikely collaboration between a bookseller, the Internet and faux television, presents the kind of audience participation that Nielsen ratings can only dream about. The idea is for us to view the pilots, and vote on which ones we want to see made into full series. Nice.

What makes this whole idea even more interesting is the fact that the pilots themselves have already gone through some sort of crowdsourced pre-production process to weed out the weak offerings, which means that every pilot we see in this small list should be top line awesome, right?

Well maybe.


Perhaps proving the point that things designed by committee are not always as amazing as they should be, you’ll still find the usual ratio of duds within the collections to be voted on (depending on your tastes of course), but we still have to applaud the idea of letting viewers have a direct say in what reaches their screens over the coming months.


So are we ever likely to see this spill over into prime time television? One thing’s for certain, the technology already exists for us to do all sorts of interesting things with viewer choice (and so much better than the boring red button on cable and satellite). Once all televisions are ‘smart’ (i.e. connected to teh internets) then viewer participation becomes an instantly available feature for everyone. It just needs some kind of creative spark to work out a system where viewers can instantly vote for the show’s continuation or demise, or even vote for characters to stay or go. Ouch!


Of course this will also need all sorts of clever new production and scheduling technology, but one thing you learn in tech is never to say ‘never’. But for now we’ll have to settle for voting up B schedule series material on Amazon’s Instant Video channel, and wait to see how this glorious (?) future pans out over the long term. The fact that Amazon’s pilot system has been going for three years already, suggests that the whole idea of crowd-selected entertainment may have a long and illustrious path ahead of it. The sounds you hear are network executives shifting uneasily in their Aerons.

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