By Aymar Jean Christian, Northwestern University
Critical Studies in Television (2019)
Web distribution has challenged the power of U.S. media corporations, which set high technical standards for production value, a measure of content quality. Legacy TV companies privilege complex, seamless technical execution supported by large crews of workers – lighting, sound, design, visual effects – but exclude as producers culturally marginalized creators perceived as too risky for the big investment necessary to execute it. The internet disrupts these dynamics by allowing for the distribution of smaller scale TV and video productions that are independently or inexpensively made. In smaller scale work, cultural production value asserts more importance, as producers sincerely create with and for their community.
Using OTV as a case study, this article develops a framework for conceptualizing and deconstructing production value across scales, comparing legacy and indie TV narrative series through a set of questions designed to draw the differences between technical and cultural production value.