How fan culture is reshaping the business of entertainment.
How fan culture is reshaping the business of entertainment.When writer Joss Whedon's science-fiction film Serenity made its debut in 2005, much of its media coverage centered on the passion of the so-called "Browncoats." Serenity was Whedon's attempt to revamp the television series Firefly, which had been, many felt, prematurely cancelled by its network, Fox. The Browncoats, the show's most hard-core fans-named for the costume worn by the show's protagonist-were actively trying to build public awareness and attract media attention to the franchise, hoping that a successful release would get the series back into production for TV broadcast. As the release date neared, fans tried everything to raise the film's profile, from holding bake sales to selling amateur-designed T-shirts.Once the box office returns were collected, Universal Studios (who produced the movie) sent out a series of cease and desist letters to the fans and, in some cases, sought to collect retroactive licensing fees for the production of T-shirts featuring Serenity icons. The fan community responded by tallying up the time they had spent in promoting the show and then sent Universal an invoice for more than $2 million (28,030 man-hours). Universal quickly backed down.Finally, the benefits of fan culture had been put into a language Hollywood could understand-the bottom line. Over the past few years, spurred on by anxieties about file sharing and declining revenue, the media industry has declared legal war on its consumers. Yet, in doing so, it has cut itself off from the viral marketing power of its fan base. The producers fear they have lost control; they worry that fans may damage their intellectual property through their unauthorized use of copyrighted materials. But they're missing the bigger picture. With a little help, production companies can turn the fans' emotional investment into a source of new income.
|What fans do is a labor of love.|