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The Revival Model: Television Online

April 22, 2010

After listening to a lecture about television programming online, looking at different broadcasting models when it comes to the internet and television, I wanted to talk about DramaFever a Korean equivalent to Hulu that provided licensed subtitled videos of Korean dramas. But I figured that a large percentage of my audience wouldn’t know what Korean dramas were, so a large portion would have been spent discussing the world of Korean television online. (It would have been boring and simply a rehash of what was already talked about.)

So instead, let’s talk about the Muppets.

We all for the most part know about the mega creation of Jim Hensen. Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy, Animal, Rizo the Rat, Chef and the whole cast from Seasame Street. For many who are a part of my generation and older, the Muppets were a staple of our childhood through movies and television. But over the years, and particularly after the Jim Hensen Studios was bought by the Mouse (Disney) we saw very little new content from the Muppet Studios. Even when the Kermit and the crew turned 50 the fan fare was nothing compared to their 30th anniversary during the 80’s. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, Disney just couldn’t get the next generation hyped about the Muppets brand of slapstick comedy.

The Muppet Show Intro on YouTube

In comes YouTube. If you ever spent hours on Youtube, you know that the site is hot bed for illegal content, parody, and the weblog, but something that Youtube has allowed many bored 20-somethings and older to do is relive the familiar shows of their youth. If you type in the Muppets into Youtube, you get everything from all the movies, the Muppet Babies intro, to even the little known muppet content that’s been pulled from old VHS tapes. YouTube is definitely the place to go if you want to know what the Muppets are really about.

Something I felt was missing from the lecture and maybe that’s because it doesn’t necessarily fit (it’s a combination of the Broadcast First/Online First models), is that the world for online is also the revival place of television programming. Through viewers and even the content producers themselves, television that was once popular is managing a small comeback. This is probably because the world of online works with niche marketing. We’ll feed a niche no matter how small while television is working to gain the largest percentage. When Muppet Studios created their own channel on Youtube, they weren’t necessarily aiming for a younger audience. Instead they brought their brand of comedy to things that would appeal to their (now older) demographic…Queen. And it has proven to be a success for them with their videos gaining views in the multimillions and a nomination for the Webby Awards. At the same time, older televised content has managed to stay up on Youtube (which is surprising since they’re owned by Disney).

The Muppet brand has decided to evolve with its older audience following successful “muppet-like” ventures like Avenue Q and Funny or Die clips that takes on the issue of Don’t ask Don’t tell (with puppets) with an improve stage play Stuffed and Unstrung.

In the end, The Muppet Studio has managed in a small way to boost their popularity with new online content. A combination of the Broadcast first model with users posting older content that isn’t immediately taken down and the Online first model with the Muppet Studios and new online videos has created something of a resurgence that goes beyond plain old Pizza Hut commercials into something that could be considered the Revival Model.

Also…go and vote for Queen + Muppets: Bohemian Rapshody for the Webby Awards*

*This post is in no way endorsed by the Muppet Studios LLC. :-D

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. kvwdesigns permalink
    May 11, 2010 11:33 PM

    Do you think that the current degradation in child programing also has a lot to do with the current culture? It’s great to see more multicultural variety in the programing, but it rare that I ever happen to see a children’s show that doesn’t revolve heavily around technology and the main protagonist using it in some way.

    The muppets were and still are pure. Yes, you have the Scientist and Beaker, but it still feels like there is quality about the muppets that is rarely seen in other shows airing today. Have we really lost our imagination to such a degree that the only superheros we know have to rely on technology in order to fight the bad guys?

    • melspence permalink*
      May 15, 2010 1:32 PM

      I don’t think technology and degradation of children’s programming are connected to begin with. There are a lot of shows were the main protaganist may use technology but because children’s shows are often about living in the imagination, they don’t rely heavily on technology. I mean Steve was still using a notebook on blue’s clues…not a netbook or lap top. While the Backyardigans are made in 3D, everything is formed through their imagination (kind of like a new age muppet babies but all their adventures don’t consist of star wars and indiana jones). If you’re talking older children, there has always been a connection between technology and children’s television, Dexter’s Laboratory Batman the Animated Series. Even Mister Rogers had a train and that in of itself though outdated is technology.

      The Muppets have also been affected by current culture…they wouldn’t be on YouTube if they hadn’t. A lot of the newer videos on the MuppetStudioes feature them using computers and other technology. Our “friendly” scrooges have moved from heckling people in the balcony to heckling people on the internet which makes total sense for our current culture of online commenting. What’s interesting and fun about the MuppetStudioes is that when it was a show on television they were performing for a show, now that they are on the internet they are performing for the web.

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  1. Update: The Muppets Win Webby Awards « The Interactive Education of L.M.S

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