The Random Long Tail and the Golden Age of Television
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Digitization has reduced the costs of production, distribution, and promotion in music, movies, and books, with major consequences for both the number of new products made available as well as the realized quality of the best new products. Cost reductions, along with relaxed gatekeeping constraints, make possible the creation of additional content. Then because of the inherent unpredictability of new product appeal, some of the new products turn out to be surprisingly good. This paper uses new data from a variety of sources to explore the evolution of television quality in the digital era. We document substantial growth in the number of new shows created and distributed, and increase in the quality of the best work, and that new kinds of shows—made possible by digitization—account for substantial and growing shares of most successful shows.