The Great British Bake Off

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Now as many of you are aware, not only do I work in TV but I am also a huge fan of TV. Something my wife and I look forward to every year on the BBC, is The Great British Bake Off. Now the License Fee gets questioned a lot over here in the UK but I would pay it for this programme alone, let alone all the other amazing BBC services. I was saying the same thing last week about the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics; I would pay the fee for just that as well.

With everything that happens in the world, news and entertainment the Great British Bake off is just something I think is very much needed. It is just a nice mixture of comedy, food, inspiration, joy and heart warmingness (I know that isn’t a word) that I never tire of watching. The programme always encourages me to bake, gives me ideas and always puts me in awe of some of the amazing home bakers we have in this country.

A phenomenon

The show is a phenomenon, not only is one of the most watched shows over here every year, but it has since had many off spin off shows produced in other countries and in the UK. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood have become national institutions because of the show and Mel & Sue have been taken in to hearts of millions.

The show needs these 4 people as they just make the show work. Every year the contestants are different, sometimes better, sometimes worse but that doesn’t always matter. The show is more about how Paul, Mary, Sue and Mel interact with the contestants, than the contestants themselves, although there have been many memorable contestants over the year.

The journey

The series progresses until they determine the champion and star baker of the series. The competition element though isn’t what is most important, which is why I like it. It’s not about everyone out to win at all costs; the winner doesn’t get a huge amount of money and a huge contract to do something. It is just more about the honour of being voted the best. Although this sounds cliché the show is about the journey we go on with all of them.

If you haven’t seen it before, where have you been? Hope you will all be tuning in at 8pm tonight on BBC One, for what I am sure will be another great series.

Getting excited for the Olympics

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It’s less than two weeks away and I for one am getting really excited about the Olympics, in Rio this year. 4 years ago the Olympics was in my home country and the only disappointment that I have, is that I didn’t get or apply for any tickets to go, as looking back on it, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I don’t think there is any sports competition on this planet that comes anywhere close to the Olympics in stature, magnitude and meaningfulness. Yes there is the World Cup, The SuperBowl etc. etc. but the Olympics are something very special. I believe that there is no greater accomplishment in sport than winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Being an Olympic Gold Medalist sets you apart and makes you very special indeed.

Feel Good factor

In 2012 the Olympics brought a feel good factor to the whole of the UK. Not just for the two weeks of the competition but for the build up as well, as the Olympic Torch proceeded throughout the country, with everyone being able to touch and feel the brand of the Olympics. The other night my wife and I watched the opening ceremony from 2012 again and it just took us back to the experience of the last Olympics, where we were and what we were doing.

Although we have the time difference to contend with I am looking forward to getting caught up in Olympics fever again, watching as much as I can on the TV and being inspired by the events that I watch. I don’t remember being as in to the Olympics when I was a kid as I am now, but I hope I can pass on my enthusiasm now to my children and that they enjoy the Olympics growing up.

Going down in history

Regardless of what happens each Olympics always goes down in history, with many conversations across the globe starting with “do you remember when.” Not only do you have that but you also have footage from the history of the Olympics that is used in many TV programmes and a lot of news coverage for decades and centuries to come.

I will be watching avidly at home, enjoying watching history being made and being inspired by the amazing competition that unfolds. So much seems to divide our world at the moment, so never has there been a better time for the Olympics, an event that brings the world together.

Gilmore Girls

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My wife introduced me to the TV show ‘Gilmore Girls’ the other day. I knew it has been a show she has loved for years but I had never watched an episode. Now that it is on Netflix I caught her watching an episode a few days ago and sat and watched with her. I am a big TV fan, especially of drama and comedy, so am always on the lookout for new shows and although I am probably not the usual demographic that watches the show or the demographic it was written for, I found myself really enjoying it.

The show drew me in

To me, great TV shows are based on fantastically written characters. I am in awe of writers who can write characters that draw you in to a show. A great show and great characters are those that don’t need big events to happen all the time to keep the attention of the audience. I don’t watch shows for events and situations that the characters find themselves in, I watch them, to go on a journey with the characters I like.

When I heard the title ‘Gilmore Girls’ it conjured up an image in my head that was different to the show I actually sat down to watch. The show is based around a mother and daughter doing life together, battling the complexity of growing up, family and relationships. I found the two main characters to be real and funny but the main thing that drew me in was their relationship, which is expertly acted and written.

Good dialogue

After every episode of the “Gilmore Girls’ I want to watch another. In many episodes nothing groundbreaking actually happens, but I want to get to know the characters better and learn more about them. I think the show would be a great one to watch for any aspiring TV writer. Dialogue can be one of the hardest things to get right, but in ‘Gilmore Girls’ they nail it. The focus on character is just brilliant as well and is a reminder to any wannabe writer to really make sure you know your characters inside and out, before attempting writing dialogue or story arcs.

So this show would be my Netflix tip of the week. I have got quite a few shows on the go already but this one has drawn me in and jumped the queue. Give it a go and I think it might become regular viewing. After a hard day it is not a taxing watch and is great to watch to unwind.

Media relations

At the moment I am doing the media rounds for my book “Unbreakable Bond.” So over the space of 5 days, I have 3 radio interviews with prominent local stations across the South West of England.

My first interview was yesterday on BBC Radio Cornwall, then this Saturday I am on Phonic FM in Exeter and then finishing up on Monday on CHBN in Truro. This is the busiest little media patch I have had in a little while and I am very much enjoying it.

You never know who is listening

The thing with being interviewed on radio is you never know who is listening. A five-minute interview could lead to lots of new interest for my book, or it might not do anything for it. The question I have to ask myself then is – are doing radio interviews worthwhile if it doesn’t lead to further sales of the book?

Through my printing and distribution companies I can track every time someone purchases my book and where they purchase it. Sadly the thing I can’t find out is what triggered the person to buy the book. If a book is sold just after a radio interview – is it coincidence or was someone listening? If a book is purchased a month after a radio interview – was it because someone just remembered about that interview they listened to with me or listened to it again on a catch-up service?

Don’t be disheartened

It can be disheartening when you invest your time to do a bit of media and it doesn’t seem to have a knock on effect on sales. As this is what you want from the media exposure, you want more people to be reading the book. I think though that no matter if everyone or no one is listening, it is still worthwhile as I believe every piece of media you do contributes to the brand. Being on a TV show, Radio programme, newspaper or website gives your voice more of an authority and might lead you to getting another chance on another platform to talk about your product.

Being on a TV show or Radio programme gets people excited for you and gives you something to talk about and hype on your own social media feeds and websites. You don’t always want to be just continuously posting about your book, so posting about being on a TV show or Radio programme gives you an indirect way and a different way of promoting your book.

If you don’t say yes to opportunities you will never know where they might lead. Even if they lead nowhere at least you now know that, you have gained experience along the way and you may have made a contact or two.

The streaming future of the BBC

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For years BBC’s iPlayer has garnered high praise as one of the best streaming platforms out there. The iPlayer app has become so popular amongst media consumers, that a significant part of the audience for programmes it airs now comes from viewers on the app.

The iPlayer platform has evolved over the years and like other streaming services has dabbled with putting up online exclusive material on the app and in some cases putting episodes of shows on iPlayer before they air on TV. Whilst iPlayer has been growing and evolving, so has the rest of the market and these moves could be seen as ways to compete with the likes of Netflix, who have had great success with exclusive content and great success at cornering the ‘binge watching’ audience.

Another step in to the streaming world

The BBC took another step in to the streaming world this week, as BBC Three became an online only channel. This move has been known about for years and was done as part of a cost cutting exercise by the BBC, but as a media professional it is exciting to see how it works out for the channel, the programmes and the BBC.

If you don’t have a TV package that allows you to record or pause live TV you use things like iPlayer to watch TV, so I don’t see the audience dropping for this channel through it’s move to online. The one thing I worry about though is it’s potential to find a new audience, those that might have flicked by on the Freeview channels or seen a programme in the TV listings that may not find them now they are not there on Freeview.

Value for money

The TV License is always a big issue with the BBC. The BBC is currently funded through the compulsory TV License fee but if this push to online continues to grow, will there be more calls for it to be scrapped? If the BBC was to move everything to online only, then the £12 odd a month we currently have to pay, ma not be seen as good value, when you can get the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime for cheaper.

Yes the BBC is more than just TV, it’s radio, it’s websites etc. etc. etc. but price and value for money is important to many people and if you don’t use parts of the service you don’t want to pay for them.

Dare to be different

I think where the BBC can be different is to offer an app, which has all the best bits of the BBC in the same place. One experience where you can grab the best of TV, Radio, News, Sport etc. Imagine being able to get the best TV, music and readable news in one app. This would be something to me that would be worth the higher fee and I think is something the BBC should explore, to keep them relevant and ahead of the game. It is a critical time for the BBC right now and I think bravery is needed to navigate the changes in the media space.

How streaming and binging changed traditional TV

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Before the explosion of streaming platforms, there seemed to be great frustration from the majority of the TV viewing public when channels would schedule repeats or show old runs of TV shows. Fast forward to modern day and it seems that showing old re-runs is now something TV companies promote to the hilt.

Playing catch-up

Traditional TV channels that are eager to either catch-up with the likes of Netflix, compete with them or appeal to their audience are now filling their schedules with various seasons of programmes that we all used to have on DVD box sets but are now just gathering dust. I remember fondly the day that DVD box sets were the most sought after Christmas presents but now whenever I walk past them in the shops I just think to myself ‘I bet I can watch it all online somewhere.’ DVD’s no longer fit with the way we consume media. We want to watch episode after episode at the touch of a button, we don’t want to have to leave our chair and grab a DVD from its case and put it in the machine.

TV channels on the whole seem to be favouring this method of programme acquisition over commissioning new programmes and paying top dollar for exclusive first airings of new progrmming. TV companies seem to want to buy old programming on the cheap and instead invest money in promoting it. Instead of risking money on new programming it is seen as more beneficial to resurrect old programmes where there is a proven audience for it.

Cheap content

Because the content maybe cheap, channels are now no longer worried about making it stretch over weeks and months, now they can schedule it in ways so that you can binge watch like you can on streaming services. Also with series link features on satellite and cable providers’ people can store it up and watch it completely like their favourite streaming service.

I think personally it is a little too late from the TV channels to try and be a bit like your favourite streaming services. I think they traditional channels should be trying to be different and innovate. TV channels will never be able to completely replicate what the likes of Netflix can do, so why even bother. If I were them I would be trying to do something different to offer an alternative.

It seems that the likes of Netflix are now trying to invest even more in original programming and having more success in that market. This is only going to lead to more and more talent and companies being taken that way so if traditional TV want to keep relevant they have to up their game.

Life without Satellite or Cable TV

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This month our contract with Sky a UK satellite TV provider comes to an end. We have now decided to cancel and although I am a huge TV fan, I am excited for life after Satellite TV.

Before the broadband and On Demand explosion the only way to watch a lot of good TV seemed to be through Satellite and Cable, but sadly for those in that business those days are over. I think Satellite and Cable TV is no longer a must have and that it is a convenience purchase more than anything now.

Lots of options

We live in a world now where there are so many boxes and sticks you can plug in to your TV to access a range of content with no subscription required. There are also a range of TVs which have internet, streaming and On Demand built in and then there is the old fashioned way of just putting a HDMI cable in to your laptop to connect it to the TV, which works just as well for the cost of a few pounds for a cable on Amazon.

I am a subscriber to Netflix, which I can watch on the TV and not only this but I can watch a host of On Demand services from various channels as well through the TV. So although I will lose out on some programmes and content, I have enough so I won’t get bored. Then if all else fails there is always Freeview if I want to watch TV in the traditional way again, which is something I rarely do these days.

For those that are less scrupulous than I, I am sure there are many non-legal ways out there on the Internet as well to watch other content you normally have to pay to view. Not only this but most streaming platforms security is weak so allows many log-ins at the same time from one account, so friends and family can share accounts so that not everyone has to pay for it.

A bit of work

I enjoy the features Sky has like live pause, record and series link but these features aren’t enough to keep me and by doing a bit of work myself I can get round these issues. I just have to wait to watch things On Demand and make sure I watch things in a certain time period before they disappear from the On Demand service.

So my advice this week is – if you want to save money, try living without Satellite or Cable, I think you will be surprised how much TV you will continue to watch and how little you will pay.

A fury over Sports Personality of the Year

One of my favourite shows of the year is BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. It is always essential viewing over the Christmas period for me, as I am a huge sports fan. Watching this programme is one of my many traditions over Christmas and it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

This year the show has grabbed more headlines than any other year, with the nomination of Tyson Fury for the main award. The show is less than a week away but it looks like that before it goes to air a petition to have Fury removed from the shortlist will have amassed more signatures than a petition against bombing of Syria!

Not shying away

The BBC have been playing up the fact about the petition on their own website, trying to make the Fury out campaign to look farcical and to keep the publicity embers very much alight as they milk this publicity for all its worth. As the saying goes there is no such thing, as bad publicity but BBC would normally shy away from bad publicity and controversy.

I think the panel who selected Tyson Fury had to know what the reaction would been to him being nominated as would the BBC, so part of me thinks BBC must have selected him and let it stand whilst having in their mind that this would generate a wave of publicity. If viewing ratings are up this Sunday then the BBC will know they have done the right thing, but only time will tell.

Plan

I hope that the BBC hasn’t done this with a plan and an agenda, as they should be above that. The BBC has such a strong brand and image that I think that something like this would only tarnish it. The BBC is held to higher standards than any other media firm and they know this, so unless it does gain a huge audience increase then publicity stunts are just not worth it. A media organization which is funded by the UK tax payer should always be wary and careful of every decision they make, as without the government and the public, they would not be able to exist on the scale they currently do.

The events of the last few weeks won’t stop me from watching the show but I don’t know if others will vote with their feet and not watch this year. I don’t think Tyson will win and I think more people will vote for other nominees to guarantee this but it has been interesting to see for the first time the comments and views of a nominee being brought in to question for if they should be nominated or not. If Tyson hadn’t recently become a world champion in boxing this would not be the issue that it is, but that’s the joy of timing and publicity.

The slow death of the TV talent show

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This year will see the final series of one of the forerunners of the modern era TV talent shows, as American Idol bows out with it’s 15th series. With declining viewers and declining advertising revenue, not only has the decision been made to end with this final series, but this final series will also be shorter than previous years by 4 weeks.

I remember when TV talent shows were drawing audiences of 15 – 20 million per show. Now it seems like anything between 5 and 7 million is seen as a success. The thing with TV talent shows is that they are all geared around advertising, sponsorship and phone ins. If it wasn’t for these things then the viewing dip wouldn’t be as important, as for some programming 5 – 7 million is a good number. TV talent shows got lots of promotion and the best TV slots because they were cash cows but without the support of the viewers they will soon be cancelled, as the only slots they can exist in is weekend prime time.

Change in consumption

When TV talent shows were at the zenith, smart phones and tablets weren’t in every hand, streaming wasn’t mainstream, youtube wasn’t being used as it is now and Tivo (DVR) wasn’t in nearly every home. TV talent shows rely on us all sitting down to watch the programme live and that isn’t how we consume TV any more.

TV talent shows tried to combat what was happening by focusing the shows more on the soap style storylines rather than the talent in order to get headlines and column inches, which worked in the short time and kept interest up. However the more sensationalist the headlines got, the more the public and the media got jaded by them and the less newsworthy the shows became.

I do have a soft spot for the TV talent show but I must admit to rarely watching them any more. Back in the day I would watch all the British TV talent shows and even the US ones like American Idol. UK TV stations fighting over the rights to American Idol (an import), just showed you how popular the genre was, that in the UK we were lapping up anything we could get.

Saturation

The main reason I don’t watch them anymore is because when the popularity was growing, the number of programmes and length of programmes in a series just seemed to grow and grow. Live shows turned in to 3-hour marathons and then moved from just Saturday night to Saturday and Sunday night, which meant giving up most of the weekend to follow them.

You can’t just blame one thing for the slow death of the TV talent show but I think viewer fatigue and the way we consume media now means that at least for a while I think they have had their day.

How important is the channel a programme broadcasts on?

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The main number that programme makers tout when finding a channel for their programme is – the number of homes the channel is available in. My question this week is – Does this number matter?

I think the number of homes a channel is available in is just a vanity number. The number of homes or reach is more to do with the Satellite, cable or digital company than the popularity of your channel.

Popular

Don’t get me wrong potential is important and if your programme is popular or becomes popular, you want to mamixmise that by being available in as many homes as possible but if your programme isn’t popular it doesn’t matter how many homes it is in. I think if you have a large potential viewerbase and low actual viewing numbers then it reflects worse on the programme, than if it was on a platform with a smaller reach.

Like the rest of the world, TV is driven more and more by data these days but the key data always will be related to how many people are watching and engaging with your programme. If a programme has a strong viewership then that is the only number TV companies will use, it is only when this number isn’t as strong as it should be that other stats get banded about.

Talked about

You know the programmes that are truly being watched, as these are the programmes that are being talked about. People talking about your programme are the best commodity you can find. If people are talking about your programme, people will find it, regardless of what platform it is on.

I think it is lazy just to expect people to watch a programme because it is on a big platform. Every programme maker and TV Company should be focused on getting eyeballs on their product, because that is the only way to grow your audience or to make a programme bigger.

As a programme maker you never know when a network is going to cancel your show or not renew a contract, so you have to at all times keep your perceived programme value high. To keep your value high you need a loyal fanbase that will follow you regardless of what network you are on and campaign on your behalf. For the big players TV is a supply and demand market, so make sure you never lose focus on the demand for your programme.