“THE Price Is Right” was looking a bit long in the tooth when Fremantle Media bought it in 1996. The game show, which invites contestants to “come on down” and guess the value of various consumer goods, had first appeared on television 40 years earlier. Since 1972 it had been hosted by one man, Bob Barker. Its audience was aged. When Mr Barker announced his retirement, one talk-show host joked that when he started watching “The Price Is Right” he knew he was getting too old to keep working.
《价格猜猜猜》（The Price Is Right）是一档游戏节目，主持人邀请参赛者“上台来”，竞猜各种日用消费品价格。弗里曼特尔传媒公司（Fremantle Media）1996年购进它时，该节目貌似有些老态龙钟。因为40年前，它就初登荧屏了。1972年以来，一直由鲍勃•巴克（Bob Barker）这一个男人主持。看它的观众华发已生。巴克先生宣布退休时，一位脱口秀节目主持人调侃道，巴克本人开始看《价格猜猜猜》时，就知道自个太老，干不动了。
These days the show is a multimedia phenomenon. It has been turned into computer games and slot machines. Perhaps inevitably, there is an iPhone app, which has been bought more than half a million times. Bally’s, a casino in Las Vegas, puts on a theatrical version of the competition five days a week. Now with a new host, the show is chugging along on daytime television, not doing at all badly.
“Once people fall in love with a brand, they want to interact with it in all sorts of ways,” says Tony Cohen, the head of Fremantle Media. This would be true even without prodding from media firms. “Winter Sonata”, a South Korean soap opera, sent honeymooners flocking to the places where it had been filmed. There are plenty of unofficial tours of famous TV locations in New York and Los Angeles. Media firms have learned to capture more of this demand and profit from it. About one-third of Fremantle’s revenues now come from consumer goods and other spin-offs.
Popular TV shows routinely spawn DVDs, toys, websites, computer games, board games and comics. Germany’s “Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten” soap has an eveningwear collection. Indeed, the point of the television business is no longer simply to make shows but to create branded entertainment franchises made up of many products of which television shows are merely the most important. And promoters no longer wait to see whether a programme becomes popular before turning it into a merchandising machine.
广受欢迎的电视节目照例会大量炮制DVD、玩具、网站、电脑游戏、桌面游戏及漫画。德国肥皂剧《好时光，坏时光》（Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten）有个晚装系列。其实，这种电视业务的目的，不再仅仅是制作节目，而是创建品牌娱乐专营权，这个专营权由众多产品组成，电视节目仅是其中最重要的一项。而一档节目在转变为商品促销机之前，对于其是否受欢迎，出资人不再迫不及待。
A good example is “Isa TKM”, a Venezuelan telenovela about a schoolgirl obsessed with a dishy musician. The show, made by Viacom and Sony, became a hit soon after it was launched in Latin America in 2008. It was subsequently sold to television networks in more than 50 countries. In view of its growing international popularity, actors from Argentina, Colombia and Mexico have been drafted for a second series, “Isa TK+”.
一个很好的例子是委内瑞拉电视长剧《Isa TKM》，描写一位中学女生跟一名性感迷人的艺术家之间的爱恋纠缠。维亚康姆和索尼公司制作的这档节目，2008年一在拉美发行，就红极一时。随后又卖给了超过50个国家的电视网。看到其在世界各地越来越受欢迎，阿根廷、哥伦比亚及墨西哥的演员已为第二部剧集《Isa TK+》搭好了班子。
From the beginning “Isa” has been a multi-platform franchise—a kind of Hispanic answer to “Hannah Montana”, Disney’s tween pop colossus. The show appeared with an entourage of Facebook and MySpace pages. There are websites in Spanish, Portuguese and, for American Latinas, Spanglish (a sample: “When he’s not mirándose en el espejo, Rey pasa el tiempo working out”). Fans can buy mobile-phone ringtones and videos. The cast of “Isa” has launched an album which topped the music charts in three countries.
一开始，《Isa》就是一种多平台专营权，等同于迪斯尼公司打造的青少年流行巨制《汉娜•蒙塔娜》（Hannah Montana）的西班牙版。与该节目一同亮相的，还有Facebook及MySpace页面。以及西班牙语、葡萄牙语及面向美籍拉丁裔的西班牙式英语（例如：When he’s not mirándose en el espejo, Rey pasa el tiempo working out）网站。粉丝可购买手机铃声及视频。Isa剧组发行了一张唱片，在三个国家的音乐排行榜上高居榜首。
These days you can hardly watch a TV show aimed at young people without being invited to visit a website. Find out what music is playing in the background! See some footage that did not make it into the final version! Discuss the show with other fans! And, of course, see some more advertisements. The websites of big-budget American dramas are dense and well designed. The shrewdest producers have realised that this profusion of spin-offs opens up a new approach to storytelling.
One of the buzzwords in Hollywood these days is “transmedia”. It refers to a kind of storytelling that goes beyond both a single platform and a single narrative. Big-budget TV shows like “Lost” and “Heroes” pioneered the use of web episodes to flesh out minor characters. The “Heroes” website hosts cartoons, subsequently printed and bound into graphic novels, that go off on tangents to the main story. Such extensions create deeper, more immersive experiences for fans. They also allow the main story, on television, to be kept fairly uncluttered—or at least less cluttered than it might have become otherwise: by its third or fourth season “Lost” was quite complicated enough.
It is not yet clear that transmedia storytelling is profitable in its own right. Its value is not measured in advertising dollars but in audience engagement. Web episodes keep viewers interested during the summer when broadcast shows go off-air. They especially please dedicated fans, who can evangelise for the show. “The fans might be few in number but they are extremely vocal,” says Nathan Mayfield of Hoodlum, an Australian firm that has created online content for “Lost” and “Emmerdale”, a British soap opera.
Have content, will travel
When a TV show goes off the air for the last time, the online community that had gathered around it tends to vanish. The games and the CDs stop selling, too. Television brings audiences to all these other activities and gives them life. It is also an excellent vehicle for carrying stories and characters to other countries, where the whole merchandise-rich ecosystem can get going all over again. Indeed, it is almost the only means of doing so.
“The internet is not multilingual yet,” notes Sir Howard Stringer, Sony’s boss. Television and film travel much better. Shows and movies can be dubbed and subtitled—and, in any case, it is not clear that “The Girls Next Door” or “Transformers: Rise of the Machines” are greatly improved by explanation. These days Hollywood depends on income from cinemas outside America. Sony’s films earned $1.5 billion at the American box office in 2009 but made a record $2.1 billion outside the country. It is the same with television.
“互联网还不是多语言化的，”索尼老板霍华德•斯特林格爵士（Sir Howard Stringer）说。电视与电影流通要好得多。电视节目跟电影可以配音，加上字幕——而不管怎样，《邻家女孩》（The Girls Next Door）与《变形金刚：机器的觉醒》（Transformers: Rise of the Machines）经过解说后，节目质量是否有极大提高，目前尚不清楚。现在好莱坞依赖的，是美国境外的影院收入。索尼制作的影片2009年美国票房收入为15亿美元，但境外却达到创纪录的21亿美元。电视同样如此。
The rising middle class in Brazil, China and India needs cars and hair-care products, and television advertising for such things is growing. Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP, a large global ad agency, says the rise of TV advertising outside North America and western Europe more than compensates for the drift to the internet of marketing expenditure in those regions. But the best thing about middle-class consumers in emerging markets, from the perspective of the international media firms, is that they are increasingly prepared to pay for television.
巴西、中国及印度日渐崛起的中产阶级，需要汽车和护发产品，此类事物的电视广告越来越多。全球广告代理巨头WWP公司老板马丁•索雷尔爵士（Sir Martin Sorrell）说，北美与西欧以外地区的电视广告增加，不只是补偿这些地区转到互联网市场上的那些开销。而根据国际传媒公司的观点，有关新兴市场中产阶级消费者最棒的事，是他们逐渐准备好为电视掏钱了。
In America nine out of ten homes with televisions already subscribe to multi-channel TV, leaving little room for growth. In Asia and eastern Europe the proportion is less than half, and in Latin America it is less than a quarter. SNL Kagan reckons that pay-TV revenues outside America and western Europe will rise steeply in the next few years (see chart 7). Just as important, consumers in countries such as India are acquiring second and third television sets. This provides an opening for teen-oriented fare, which otherwise might not get a look-in. “If you have only one television in the house, the patriarch controls it,” says Philippe Dauman of Viacom.
美国有电视的家庭，十分之九已订购了多个电视频道，增长空间很小。而亚洲与东欧这一比例还不到一半，拉美则不足四分之一。SNL Kagan估计未来数年，美国与西欧之外的付费电视收入将剧增（如图7所示）。与之同样重要的是，印度之类国家的消费者，正谋求获得第二第三台电视机。这为青少年观众打开了一个口子，否则他们无法看到电视。“要是家中只有一台电视机，家长就会把着不放，”维亚康姆的菲利普•多曼（Philippe Dauman）说。
Overseas markets are the healthiest, fastest-growing part of the television business. Discovery Communications, which ventured abroad early, now derives a third of its revenues from outside America. It helps that Discovery produces a lot of documentaries and natural-history shows: programmes with voice-overs can be readied for export simply by recording a new narration. Fox International Channels, News Corporation’s overseas arm, turned over more than $1 billion in the fiscal year 2008-09. Five years earlier it had brought in less than $200m.
海外市场是电视业发展最好、增长最快的部分。探索通信公司（Discovery Communications）涉足海外很早，现在有三分之一的收入来自美国以外。这帮助探索公司制作了大量纪录片和自然历史节目：带有画外音的节目仅需录制一个新解说就预备出口了。新闻集团公司（News Corporation）的海外机构福克斯国际频道（Fox International Channels），2008~2009财年营业额超过10亿美元。而五年前，还不足2亿美元。
In many countries the strongest competition for channels launched by international media firms comes from local outfits. Knowledgeable, well connected and often protected by foreign-ownership rules, they have an advantage over the new entrants. Some, like the BBC, have a guaranteed source of income. Others have exploited historical and linguistic connections overseas. France’s Canal Plus has a channel in Vietnam; Brazil’s Globo is doing well in Angola, like Brazil a former Portuguese colony.
A few have even sneaked hits into America. The Spanish-language telenovelas that Mexico’s Televisa supplies to Univision frequently draw bigger prime-time audiences than English-language shows. Europeans dominate the worldwide reality-TV business. Fremantle Media, which is owned by Bertelsmann, produces “American Idol”. Endemol, a Netherlands-based firm, churns out the kind of reality shows that Americans love to complain about—and love to watch. But these are localised versions of imported formats. Most Americans probably do not realise that “American Idol” or “Dancing with the Stars” originated in Britain. Only Hollywood routinely exports its shows unaltered.
许多电视节目甚至神不知鬼不觉红到了美国。墨西哥广播电视集团（Mexico’s Televisa）提供给Univision公司的西班牙语长篇电视剧，黄金时段吸引的观众常常比英语节目还多。贝塔斯曼集团（Bertelsmann）旗下的弗里曼特尔传媒公司制作了《美国偶像》（American Idol）节目。总部位于荷兰的安迪摩尔公司（Endemol），粗制滥造的真人秀节目，美国人喜欢抱怨，却又爱看。不过，这些都是引进节目式样的本地化版本。大部分美国人兴许并不了解，《美国偶像》跟《与星共舞》（Dancing with the Stars）都起源于英国。只有好莱坞一如既往地出口其一成不变的节目。
An international beauty contest
To see why the big studios are so successful at selling overseas, conduct a test. Get hold of a copy of a drama made by Hollywood for American broadcast TV—“CSI”, “Glee” or “Heroes” will do fine—and, at a random moment, press the pause button. What do you see? Handsome actors, no doubt. But also a well-composed shot that resembles a photograph, with the actors well positioned within the frame. The shot will be well lit, too. Now do the same for a show made by a foreign broadcaster. The result? Probably less impressive.
Finely crafted television like this is expensive. It costs more than $3m for an hour of drama that is good enough to pass muster on an American broadcast network. The visual acuity of Hollywood’s best shows is a big reason why they can compete against home-grown products that are more culturally relevant. Their advantage is growing as households across the world invest in bigger, sharper televisions. And Hollywood is less ashamed of its role as global storyteller than it used to be.
A few years ago there was much talk of localising television shows. Stung by charges of cultural imperialism, which were particularly loud in France, the big media conglomerates encouraged their foreign subsidiaries to develop their own programming. Although some still do so, it is no longer the rule. MTV India, for example, is dominated by local acts but MTV Poland is a vehicle for international music.
These days MTV International is run “more like a global multinational”, says Bob Bakish, its president. It produces local content where there is demand for the stuff. But it is also a co-ordinated distribution engine for American programming. Series like “Jersey Shore”, an oddly compelling show that trails Italian-American youths around beaches and bars, are now released simultaneously outside America. When Michael Jackson died, MTV quickly assembled a reel of the singer’s performances and dispatched it around the world. A truly decentralised outfit could not have done that.
现在的MTV国际台运作起来“更像一家全球性跨国公司”，其总裁鲍勃•巴克西（Bob Bakish）说。该台在有素材需求的地方制作当地节目内容。不过，它也是美国电视节目的一个合作分发引擎。《泽西海岸》(Jersey Shore)是部怪异有趣的节目，围绕海滩与酒吧追踪描写一群意大利裔美国人的故事，诸如此类的连续剧，现下在美国境外同步发行。迈克尔•杰克逊逝世之时，MTV迅速汇编了一卷他的表演录影带，并分发给全世界。一个真正权力下放的机构不会这样做。
Television companies have gained more leeway in part because worries about cultural imperialism have shifted from Hollywood to Silicon Valley. It was Twitter, not CNN, that was blamed for sparking protests in Iran in 2009. Google has tangled with the Chinese government and has been accused of impoverishing national newspapers. Television has lost its monopoly over the creation of cultural anxiety, and more besides.