Premier League lands £3bn TV rights bonanza from Sky and BT | Media | The Guardian


As their customers’ incomes shrink because of wage freezes and tax increases, the major broadcasters are spending money buying up rights to football matches. According to this Guardian write up, Premiere League football clubs made losses of £361 million last year on income of £2.3 billion. Now their income will be boosted by a new TV deal, which is costing the broadcasters £6.6 million per game.

Obviously, BT are hoping to compete with Sky in the pay TV market, and their 38 Saturday lunchtime and mid-week games might help that. But I wonder. If you’re already paying a small fortune for your Sky subscription, are you going to add a BT Vision subscription, too? And if you’re getting 116 games on Sky, you’re hardly likely to abandon that for the 38 games on BT.

So who does BT think is going to pay for all this? I’ve tried BT Vision and abandoned it almost immediately, because it didn’t work properly, and tried to make me pay for free services like BBC iPlayer.

Setanta went bust trying to compete with Sky, so this could get ugly. Meanwhile, who’s going to pay for the massive spike in the price of a football game on TV?

The effect on fans is more uncertain. BT and Sky may have to charge more to cover their huge investment. When asked whether clubs would use the windfall to subsidise ticket prices, Scudamore would say only that it “gives them more choices”.

Tony Ball, the former BSkyB chief executive who helped fuel the company’s growth in the mid-1990s, is a non-executive director on the BT board and is likely to have advised it on its bidding strategy. ESPN, the US giant that entered the market when Setanta went bust trying to compete with Sky, has now been frozen out.

via Premier League lands £3bn TV rights bonanza from Sky and BT | Media | The Guardian.

Culture and economy: Watching rich people on TV | The Economist


The Economist has an insightful article about why rich people don’t perceive themselves as rich. When asked if they are wealthy, they say no; when asked if they pay too much tax, they say yes; when asked if wealthy people should pay more tax, they also say yes. One of the reasons they don’t think they’re rich is because “average” people on TV are impossibly wealthy.

Think of Desperate Housewives. Where does the money come from to support those lifestyles in those enormous houses? We get vague ideas about what people do for a living. But there’s no consistency: when Susan married Mike and did encounter financial difficulties, they did eventually have to move out and rent the house (whereas as a single divorced mother earning her living as a children’s book illustrator, she encountered no such difficulties); when Carlos was in jail, however, Gabby didn’t have to move out of their “McMansion”.

In the soapy family drama Brothers and Sisters, again, Nora’s family home is huge and decorated luxuriously, this in spite of the fact that her husband died and left her a company in the red, her live-at-home drug addicted son was unemployed, and that she herself did nothing much except potter about.

Remember The OC? Always made me laugh that the fostered kid was living in the pool house because the main family home (which was about 6x bigger than the average British family home) apparently only had two bedrooms. But, still, they had a pool house. And a pool. Even though the father at least was doing a lot of pro bono legal work.

“Parenthood” seems in some ways to be trying to present the ethos and life space of young Northern California families in the same affirming, universally sympathetic fashion. And there are a lot of efforts to bring in a wide range of socioeconomic situations. We’ve got the divorced mother in her late 30s who moves back in with her parents, the slacker artist guy getting by on minimal income on a houseboat, a kid from the Oakland projects, and so on. But in terms of lived space, the show mostly falls prey to the familiar Hollywood syndrome of unrealistically gorgeous bourgeois set design. And that spills over into the economic underpinnings of plot lines. An interaction early in the first season drove the point home: when the central “everyman” family has to confront their child’s autism and is told about a highly sought-after special-needs school with high tuition, they respond: “We don’t care what it costs. We’ll pay whatever it takes.” The viewer thinks: how nice for you, that you can demonstrate your commitment to your child in that fashion! You must be part of the small percentage of American households that can afford to say things like that.

via Culture and economy: Watching rich people on TV | The Economist.

‘The Simpsons’ Explains Its Provocative Banksy Opening –


How did “The Simpsons” manage to track down Banksy, the pseudonymous British artist, and get him to create the powerful opening-credit sequence from Sunday’s episode, which seems to reveal the torturous sweatshop responsible for the show’s creation? And how, after all that mockery, have the producers behind that Fox animated series been able to retain their jobs? Al Jean, an executive producer and the longtime show runner of “The Simpsons,” pulled back another layer of the curtain and explained the stunt to ArtsBeat on Monday afternoon.

via ‘The Simpsons’ Explains Its Provocative Banksy Opening –

Has the curse of ITV struck again? | Media | The Guardian


Finally, though, the reason that so much talent has suffered when jumping a couple of numbers across the spectrum is that a successful show is a combination of format and broadcasters, in proportions that are notoriously hard to calculate. Phillip Schofield, who is probably the only BBC refugee to have flourished on the third channel, did so because he has found shows that suit him.

ITV1 gambled that The One Show did the business because viewers liked Chiles and Bleakley but perhaps the audience liked The One Show more than the presenters or simply liked the presenters more on a sunset sofa than a sunrise one. Any future presenters tempted to move should be very sure of what it was that the viewers were originally tuning in for.

via Has the curse of ITV struck again? | Media | The Guardian.

Daybreak: Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley’s first morning


TV bosses can be a bit, I don’t know, foolish sometimes. And none more so than Daybreak’s, who seem to have modelled their set on the lobby of a Premier Inn, complete with dark purple furniture and fake-looking wooden detailing. Chiles and Bleakley were certainly proud of their new set, excitedly touring it, pointing out such heretofore unknown features on a morning TV set as sofas, a weathergirl and a clock. Chiles even insisted on talking about the various clocks he could spot around the room, while Bleakley gazed at him, chemistry-ishly, with a dazzled grin. Although for a contract that size, who can blame her?

via Daybreak: Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley’s first morning on the sofa | Television & radio |

Television: The lazy medium (The Economist)


Might be worth your while picking up a copy of The Economist, which has a special report on Television.

One of the main features of this report is a reception study carried out by Sarah Pearson of the University of Sussex. Pearson has been studying how people actually use their PVRs, and is especially interested in the number of TV commercials they watch live as opposed to skipping through. In one 2007 study, she found that 70% were viewed live, for example. In other words, studies are beginning to emerge which show that the impact of PVRs on exposure to commercials is limited.

On the other hand, the increase of TV channels is making audiences shrink, and this is especially true once you get beyond the top-rated shows.

[A] change in expectations is not quite the same as a change in behaviour. Although it is easier than ever to watch programmes at a time and on a device of one’s choosing, and people expect to be able to do so, nearly all TV is nonetheless watched live on a television set. Even in British homes with a Sky+ box, which allows for easy recording of programmes, almost 85% of television shows are viewed at the time the broadcasters see fit to air them.

“People want to watch ‘Pop Idol’ when everyone else is watching it,” says Mike Darcey of BSkyB. If that is not possible, they watch it as soon as they can afterwards. Some 60% of all shows recorded on Sky+ boxes are viewed within a day. Often the delay is only a few minutes—just enough to finish the washing up or to make a phone call. For the most part, internet video is used in the same way. Matthias Büchs of RTLNow, a video-streaming website, says online viewing of a programme peaks within a day of that programme airing on TV

Another interesting finding is that people under-report how much TV they watch and over report how much online video they watch. See this graphic for details.

This research shows the importance of reception studies, or at least more ethnographic observation of people’s actual habits. Undertaking a survey has little use value unless it’s backed up with scientific observation. This is called ACB, or Actual Customer Behaviour research. A survey becomes useful in revealing how deluded people are about their own habits! To base a research finding on a survey alone will lead to misinformation – and this ends up costing the industry money. You ask people what they want and then give it to them, and it turns out it wasn’t what they wanted. This means your product flops badly and costs your company money.

The relative failure of Apple TV in comparison to, say, the iPad, is a great example of this. With the iPad, Apple ignored what people say they want and just produced a new gadget that (suddenly) everyone wants. There are still complaints about missing features, but that hasn’t stopped them selling a million or so of the thing in the first month. On the other hand, Apple TV allows people to get programmes and films on demand, download them, and watch them when they want to. Hardly anybody has one, and we all sit in front of our TVs and watch what’s on.

I think downloading does have an impact – when the most enthusiastic fans of a programme choose to download episodes instead of waiting for them to be broadcast, the show often gets cancelled – but it’s certainly not having the impact that the industry claims.

If they made decent, original, and innovative programmes, people would watch them. If they ask people what they want and then give it to them, the audience will continue to shrink.

David Mitchell on TV and film realism


Here’s an enjoyable column by television’s David Mitchell, in response to the scientist who argued that film writers should restrict themselves to one contravention of the laws of physics per film.

What I like about Mitchell’s writing is that is is clearly his voice. There are some useful snippets here – such as an explanation as to why nobody ever eats anything when TV characters sit in restaurants.

So movies shouldn’t break the laws of physics? Don’t tell Captain Kirk.

Hugh Laurie finds happiness in LA – Times Online


This brief interview with The Times is to promote the forthcoming new season of House on Sky 1 in the UK (another News Corp property – this is what the media institutions like to call synergy). It makes the claim that House is now the world’s most watched TV show. If so, it’s an interesting step up from what it was a few years ago: CSI Miami, which is utter tripe. I was reminded of this when I watched episode 1 of the current CSI Trilogy being shown on channel Five at the moment.

The CSI trilogy is another example of synergy (there’s a lot of it about) – persuading fans of one show (the Vegas original, perhaps) to watch episodes of the other two. I only watch Original (the one I used to call Beardy). I never warmed to the New York one, and David Caruso, in Miami, is hard to take.

Meanwhile, Doctor Gregory House, modelled on Sherlock Holmes, a drug-addicted misanthrope, is the world’s most popular TV character, and Science Fiction once again proves itself to be the most popular TV genre.

Whether it’s CSI (forensic science), or House (medical science – and, most importantly, the scientific method), we just can’t get enough of geeky people on TV solving mysteries (medical or otherwise) using science and technology. Isn’t that interesting?

The state of scripted drama in the USA


All my favourite TV shows are US shows, and we live in worrying times for fans of quality scripted drama. For all their obvious popularity, the short-sighted habits of some of these shows’ most passionate fans means that – for the networks – the numbers sometimes don’t add up. Because fans can’t wait for broadcast and choose to download instead, the shows’ ratings get worryingly low.

American network NBC, in a fit of panic, replaced one of their scripted drama slots with a cheap chat show hosted by Jay Leno. Fortunately, the ratings for Leno were so bad that they’re moving him to a later time, which frees up the prime time slot for something else. Read more here:

The Canadian Press: With Jay Leno out of prime time, producers of drama shows happy to fill void.