Serious 24 fans watch it live, TiVo it, or even use an old fashioned VCR- but they don’t miss the season premier. But, they also go out and buy the entire season on DVD and watch it straight through- and some collect it. Typically, the DVD doesn’t come out until after the season is over- not anymore. Starting tomorrow, you can buy the first 4 hours (premiered last night and tonight) on a DVD. No waiting till the season is over. Have it now. More than likely, after each 4 hours they will sell another DVD, and instead of getting $45 for the entire season in one box, you’ll pay more for the single packages.

Well, some Fox exec is probably thinking how smart am I- when in fact, they are missing the whole point: Bits not atoms. This was the seminal idea presented by Nicholas Negroponte in his 1996 book, Being Digital where he suggests that things that are made digitally (movies, books, newspapers etc) do better to stay in a digital format instead of being converted into atoms. This is what the iTunes store is all about, and what the future of television is- IPTV, on demand TV delivered by Internet Protocol, not, by creating disks with packaging, distribution costs etc.

Granted, television networks still haven’t got a clue what to do about TiVo yet- or the opportunities to build communities around their programming (except ESPN which understands the sportsfan better than anyone). The idea is to embrace your viewers- and make it easy for them to become a “market” with user profiles for direct delivery of targeted advertising- instead of the shotgun approach we now use.

The idea of the Sprint tie in to 24 is just another way to alienate some of your market. Is there anyone who really believes that fans will walk out of their Cingular or Verizon contract in order to move to Sprint to watch a webisode or get additional info? All this is doing is ticking off your most rabid fans that love 24, but don’t love Sprint.

Accept it: the customer is in control. It is your job to remove barriers and make them jump through as few hoops as possible to get access to their favorite shows. No big stupid Flash intros like they had on Rockstar Supernova, no sites that require proprietary browsers or specific hardware, you must work to make your content accessible to the widest possible audience, and let them feel like they aren’t being sold to- but embraced and part of something special- as you deliver the marketers message quietly through the screen.