Thursday, 8 January 2009

Telly Twenty Oh Nine

It's annoying being nine years into a decade that doesn't have a name. The 'Noughties' never took off. The next one is the same - someone suggested the Teens but that won't include 2010, 2011 or 2012.


Anyhow, television. It's always a bit quiet in Jan when it comes to tvland, but it's worse this year due to the entire crux of capitalist society collapsing. My little company is as badly affected as most, with commissions thin on the ground and what is there being cut back to the bone.

The one fact most people agree with is that tv viewing goes up in recessions. Makes sense - more people can't afford to go out so they slump on the sofa and watch the box. But it's not quite that simple - subscription tv does well too, as people are willing to pay more money if they're around at home and think it's good value.

The trouble is the advertisers have run away like a bunch of scaredy cats. On fire. In a war. On the Moon. So there's little money around, even less for C4, Five and smaller Sky-type channels, as with budgets plummetting, the remaining advertisers can get afford time on ITV1, which still delivers the best bang for your buck.

With the public service broadcasting review from Ofcom investigating the sorry state of serious telly in the UK adding to the confusion in the industry, it's not a nice time in tv. A senior broadcaster - a man who NEVER swears - said television "is in the shit".

It's not just the current problems, it's that no-one can see a sustainable business model for telly in the UK in five years' time. Sky should be OK (can I bet on Sky1 just showing The Simpsons every half hour by 2014?), the BBC probably fine-ish (less original programming, more repeats), ITV... well, totally buggered probably, more cheapo quizzes replacing expensive dramas, C4... er, maybe worse; wall-to-wall pop factual or reality, no comedy or drama, Five... um, part of Sky?

Not a nice thought. It must be hard to, say, be someone working for Five and knowing that if you showed 4 eps of CSi every night instead of the current 2, replacing original, home-grown programming with an import, you'd (a) save money; and (b) almost certainly increase ratings.

In the current economic climate, the cheapest option will win every time, as it has in other sectors. That's not The IT Crowd, Doctor Who or even I'm a Celebrity (£1m an ep apparently - I'm sure it's profitable but that's a HUGE cost) - cheapest = Masterchef, Mastermind and something else with master in the title. They're good shows but cheap as chips.

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