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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

'Twas not the vampires that killed Buffy after all (just a bunch of blood-sucking lawyers )

Buffysuckmp_2 A few guilty pleasures I enjoy in life.

One of them is the annual Buffy midnight Sing-a-Long in NYC's West Village at the historic Waverly Theater (it's a sing-a-long because a special Buffy episode was a clever musical).

It's like the Rocky Horror Picture Show...except it's Buffy The Vampire Slayer.(My post from last year's Buff-fest is here.)

But this year I won't get to go. (sad face)

First, let's get the usual question out of the way (long-time readers of the blog know I'm an avid fan).

"Um, you watch Buffy, as in that vampire slayer chick, CK?"

Yes, Buffy as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV Series. But the show was never really about vampires--you had to be a viewer to understand--it was about smart story arcs and complex characters. (Don't believe me? Ivy league Oxford University has run classes and written theses on how brilliantly complicated the series is :-).

So why won't I be going singing this year?

Because Fox went and rained on our musical parade and deemed us breaking the law. To be sure kids, there were no illicit drugs or debauchery at this event. (I know, damn.) There were a few vampires, though. But they were very nice; some of them even gave me candy and demon finger puppets.

All told, it was a mix of ages with people from all over the tri-state area who didn't necessarily have much in common. No matter, we came together to share a tremendous experience--and from a marketer's viewpoint, you couldn't manufacture a better brand opportunity.

For a retired series, no less. But no more.

According to CNN: "The TV show didn't exactly die when the show and its demon-fighting heroine went off the air three years ago. Driven by a fiercely loyal following, fans put together the sing-along event, a la "Rocky Horror Picture Show," where people turn up for midnight screenings of a musical episode of the show, often dressed up in costume as their favorite characters.

That all came to an end this week when the studio that owns the rights to the show got wind of what was going on. Lawyers for Twentieth Century Fox Television, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., told a licensing company that had given the green light for the sing-along events that it had gone beyond limits of the show's licensing agreements.

The event's organizer, Clinton McClung said he had sought and received a licensing arrangement from Criterion Pictures for the events, but Alexander said those permissions went beyond what Fox allowed.

Now, McClung has had to cancel a costume party later this month as well as about 10 shows in theaters around the country as a result of the cease-and-desist order. He said he has already taken the sing-along event to 15 other cities, where it has mainly sold out."

According to Fox: "There are plenty of legal ways for fans to enjoy Buffy, but this particular event is not going to be possible at this time."

According to CK: I understand there exist licensing laws and policies (which, again, the organizer had worked to clear). But I also understand how a show is nothing without its fans..and now you've ticked-off those loyal fans, and chosen a very poor choice in wording. With shows sold-out in multiple cities and with your army of lawyers--um, and publicists--you could have figured out something (even Universal came to their senses and caved last year).

And what Fox needs to understand is that by virtue of holding these events, the fans produce:

  • After-market revenues: These fans keep a show that has been OFF THE AIR FOR SEVERAL YEARS high in the hearts and minds of fans old and new (read: we buy more DVDs and crap because we still love the series...these events make us remember just how much and we show our love by, you guessed it!, buying more of your crap).
  • Fan WOM to promote NEW shows: Fans who unite often ask, "Hey, watcha watching to fill your Buff fix now that the show is off the air?" (read: those fans promote other media properties of YOURS while at these events. Yup, a highly sought-after "engaged" audience who trust each other's recommendations happy to recommend more of your shows).

So this move by Fox produces (1) bad publicity, (2) bad blood (had to go for a pun!), (3) exudes bad business sense and (4) makes no brand sense.

As for this ticked-off fan, I will buy no more Buffy crap from Fox. I'll just make (illegal) copies from the friends I met at last year's event and prove myself a deviant.

And to Clinton McClung, I say: you rock for all the work you put into this. I know it wasn't a moneymaker but a passion of yours, and we fans heart you for it. And this marketer is so proud of you for taking it to the press (NY Magazine interview with McClung here).

PS: Want to see fan armies in action? Just look at all these posts saying how "Fox hates its own fans," "What a great way to lose future fans," and "Lawyers are evil" (at least for once they're not saying that about marketers!). And there are hundreds more spewing disgust for the studio. Monumentally stupid move. You can sign the petition right here.

Comments

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"According to Fox: "There are plenty of legal ways for fans to enjoy Buffy, but this particular event is not going to be possible at this time.""

What that means is, "There are plenty of ways that WE APPROVE OF, for fans to enjoy Buffy".

Never seen an episode of Buffy, and don't have to to know that this is dumb dumb dumb. You NEVER rail against your evangelists like this, you ENCOURAGE them!

Argh...makes you want to pull your hair out to see how companies can be this idiotic.

@Mack: This show has been off the air for years. It's beyond stupid. These aren't terrorists they're negotiating with, these are loyal fans of a retired series. The organizer worked with the licensing agent and booked several shows (and he's such a gem of a guy).

Fox gets no more of my money. Couldn't respect myself. At least it provides me years of a bad case study to show my clients ;-).

I can't imagine the idiocy going on behind closed doors at Fox.

"Say, Frank, these people are really building up some marketable opportunities for one of our properties. Let's shut them down and cite copyright laws. That way we'll tick them off and lose the loyalty they have for the brand. Doesn't that sound like a great idea, Frank?"

@Cam: Even the series creator/writer/director attended one of these events in L.A and is disgusted at the decision to do this to fans (he's a man who gives his movie screenings to his fans first, not the media. He does the work for the audience).

But not the studio. Shameful and just stupid. Sad face.

The rapacious greed of the Hollywood Industrial Complex is only outdone by its stunning idiocy.

Die, Hollywood, die.

I've never seen Buffy (except great commercials) but how crazy is Fox? Haven't they ever looked at the Star Trek residuals (no, not a Trekkie either)? There's a host of shows that returned from the Dead (can I pun too?) to create new revenues - Brady Bunch, Gilligans Island, Adams Family, etc...

The world gets crazier every day.

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