Gleeful Channels of Delivery

When you think about it, expanding channels of delivery is a no-brainer. If you sell a lot of sunglasses through a catalog, reason dictates you would be able to sell more sunglasses if you sold them through a catalog and a website.

When I was in MBA school, I took an outstanding strategy class, where the professor pretty much blew my mind when talking about channels of delivery with regards to the Disney Channel. The lesson went something like this: If you are a 13 year old girl and you love Hillary Duff or Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers, you don’t care whether you’re “consuming” them via televisions, movies, music, cosmetics or anything else. You just want more. Disney built the model of delivering these “products” – their stars – through multiple channels, thus increasing both the brand equity of the talent/product and the Disney brand itself. It made perfect sense.

However, if Disney built the model for the 21st century, I would argue that the television show Glee has perfected it. (Disclaimer: I am an unabashed fan of the show.) What started as Fox taking a risk on a musical TV show (a genre that had not done well in recent years) with an unconventional launch plan (premiering the pilot months before the actual season began) turned into an absolute goldmine when the cast recording of ‘Don’t Stop Believin” became an iTunes best seller. From there, Glee’s channels of delivery have only grown. From in-person concerts to a 3D movie, from standard branded merchandise to sing-along video games and iApps, there are almost limitless ways to “consume” Glee. I think that this ubiquity has helped Glee be the juggernaut it is. Even in the face of declining third season ratings, this is one of Fox’s flagship properties. I don’t know this for a fact, but I would anticipate the money made via iTunes sales far outweighs the show’s advertising revenue. Additionally, even if you’re not a fan of the show, you could still be a fan of the music, or of karaoke games or…

(I once read a clearance find book, “I Don’t Mean To Be Rude, But…: The Truth about Fame, Fortune and My Life in Music” by Simon Cowell. One of the points made was that he wanted to prove you could sell music without radio play, that you could sell music just based on TV…thus the reality singing competition craze, Il Divo, etc. Glee has obviously benefited from this perception shift of music consumers.)

And really, that’s just the show property itself. If you look to the work that the cast has done since the show’s run began, even more channels are being penetrated. Dianna Agron started a lifestyle website (You, Me & Charlie), with hundreds of thousands of followers. Chris Colfer has written a children’s book and written and starred in a movie. Darren Criss has supported the theater group he started in college, StarKid productions, as well as spent three weeks starring on Broadway. Fans are waiting for records and record deal announcements, as well as movie starring roles from many of the cast members and on and on…

Essentially, it doesn’t matter what medium you prefer to “consume” the product of Glee or the Glee stars, there is an option for you. So, what does this mean going forward? How do we feel about music that is never heard on the radio outselling that which is? Do we think that this is an isolated phenomena or could other beloved entertainment properties think further outside the norm (Mad Men’s recent release of Jessica Pare’s ‘Zou Bisou Bisou’ on vinyl comes to mind)? Will this lead to a shift in how entertainment properties are pitched and developed (no fewer than four channels allowed!)? What can we learn about celebrity branding and “striking while the iron is hot”? Will the Gleeks really inherit the earth?

I think what’s going to be interesting to watch is how long this is sustainable – what’s the tipping point? Where is the point of over-saturation? Plus, what is the next property that’s going to one-up this formula? I’m certainly excited to see.