- Why has America’s Funniest Videos (AFV) not died in 20 years even despite the age of “instant gratification via YouTube”?
- How does AFV manage the logistics of culling through massive amounts of user-generated clips?
- How many clips does AFV producer Vin Di Bona own?
- Why has no other show or format “cracked the code” of televising web clips until, perhaps, Tosh 2.0?
Wired Magazine solved many of these age-old nagging questions in “Painfully Funny: Why America’s Funniest Home Videos Won’t Die” a recent issue by Brian Raftery. Note Raftery’s choice of “won’t” versus “hasn’t” or “can’t.”
Some quick AFV-facts (below) were fascinating news to me, and I’ve watched the show since 1989 with the love-hate relationship you perhaps share. Sure, I dig the poodle in a congo line and giggling quadruplet babies, but my spoof (now at 12 million views) tells you how I see the show. All that’s missing is Sagat’s painful impersonations — the chalkboard scratch of the 1990s.
- Di Bona is like the porn king of user-generated videos, and is sitting on an exclusive library of 104,000 plus digitized clips, all carefully tagged with words like “cat (4K plus), parrot, baby, snot (265), itchy, zipline, sea turtles and lick.
- Why, despite Sagat’s horrible humor, sound effects and voiceovers, did the show survive? Because in the 90s it was impossible to share clips and nobody was culling them. Luckily Tom Bergeron and a smart writing/editing staff have fine-tuned the model. Bergeron is like Ryan Seacrest. Each sound, facial expression and body movement exudes confidence, is inflected with precision, and yet is approachable. I watch them like you may watch professional ice skaters (I tend to prefer the latter only when they spill).
- Did you miss a key word of my first bullet? Exclusive rights, which is extremely rare in today’s digital economy. That’s why David DeVore, a Florida real-estate agent, made a smart decision to turn down “exclusive,” in a move that’s given him far more than even AFV’s top $100,000 prize (and since the clip involves a minor under the influence of a drug, it might well have never left AFV’s faults, points out Raftery’s Wired piece). I just found DeVore’s note to me: in the weeks after “David After Dentist” exploded: “Do you have any advice on what to pursue? Maybe its nothing, I dont know. Is youtube partners a good option? Are there other things to look into?” I rushed to bring this to YouTube’s attention, although it certainly would have happened without me. It takes a lot of home commissions to reach what he’s earned from that clip in advertising-revenue sharing, and he owns it… not Di Bona.
- The show’s secret formula is that it stayed away from video “stories” (beginning, middle and end) in lieu of micro clips that have global appeal… I’d see FailBlog as today’s version, yet many of its clips are ripped and certainly not capable of monetization. I sent my 1980s videos to Di Bona when I saw a “call for entries” that preceded the original broadcast (I can’t remember signing a release, but I’m sure I’d have signed away my life at that time). I was tickled to see some of my videos on the early promotions of the show, although I don’t believe they’ve ever been in the show. For two decades people have asked me why I don’t send videos to AFV, and I now have two simple answers: my videos aren’t AFV gold (with a few exceptions like Charlie and the Santa claus) and I don’t like exclusivity. No AFV grand prize could offset what YouTube’s done for me.
- Charlie and Santa, having surpassed ever slightly the “50K views or lower” AFV requirement, would not make it eligible for AFV. They’re smartly avoiding online memes and popular clips. That’s a distinct advantage over shows that recycle clips most of us have already beat to death. To be considered for AFV, of course, I’d have to take down the video and cede any upside that might come otherwise (the clip has been on television but no exclusivity was required).
- The AFV videos are recycled less often than you’d think. In periods Di Bona received 1,000 videos a day, sometimes barely any, and other times 2,000 per week. If he relaxes his exclusivity clause and invites easy web submissions he’ll get far more entries even if worse in aggregate (that would lower the bar for home-video creators, making it less effort to submit, and perhaps overwhelm his staff reviewing loads of nonsense). Relaxing the exclusivity requirement would also change the business model since by air time we might already be sick of the Sneezing Panda.
- The most interesting fact about the Wired article? No mention of Cute, Win, Fail... which I think is a brilliant adaptation of AFV for YouTube… with potentially a higher potential revenue source long term.
Bottom line: should people submit to AFV or YouTube? That depends on the power of your clip, and whether you think you’re a “one-hit wonder” or someone who wants to make this your passion. Most likely your clip isn’t going to go “David After Dentist,” but get lost in a sea of sameness. But I’d certainly test it on YouTube, and see how quick it gets views. If it caps at a few thousand and doesn’t appear to be moving, odds are it won’t (though it’s possible). Then you’ve got higher upside on AFV, although you may never see it on television or make a dime. For me, the odds of winning the coveted $100K prize just seem too low… and my videos are usually pranks or mini-stories, so they’re not an AFV fit. So when I hear the word “exclusive,” I hear “if this thing starts making loads of money, you won’t see a dime.”