Last week I watched the final episode of The Black Donnellys, a fairly mediocre organized crime drama that premiered on NBC in January. The noteworthy thing about this is that NBC actually canceled the show after the first few episodes, but still made the show available on their website. This is the first time that I have been able to continue watching a show via the Internet after the network canceled it from their prime time lineup, which makes me think that this could become an increasingly popular entertainment delivery mechanism.
NBC actually made a few bucks from my watching the episodes on their website. In place of the regular commercial breaks, they played a single 15 or 30 second commercial and all of the commercial breaks were for the same company. Although the commercials certainly do break up the show - it is not quite like a DVD - I found that the commercials really did not bother me because they were so short. Actually I found it a better viewing experience than skipping through the commercials on a DVR with the benefit that the advertiser actually has a chance to get a message to me.
In addition to the website that I linked to above, NBC also offers episodes of the show for download on iTunes. Each episode costs $1.99 so I assume that NBC probably charges their website advertisers something less than that.
Given that NBC decided to cancel The Black Donnellys halfway through the season I assume that the series was probably a loser financially, but the fact that NBC was able to make some of their money back through online advertising sales and through iTunes. This probably changes the equation for new episode launches to some extent because the network does not automatically have to forfeit all revenue from the later episodes when they cancel a show. My guess is that networks will probably try to launch more new series to try to find winners because they now have an additional option for monetizing a show that does not pick up a following large enough to justify keeping it in their regular lineup. Hopefully this exciting development will encourage networks to take more risks on innovative programs.