Our new columnist gives you the inside track on the ups and downs of establishing a digital TV service in 2011.
This time of year always brings mixed feelings for me – looking back on the channel successes and failures of the year (2010 brought both in equal measure) and forward to the promises of 2011.
A year ago, I had one impending Failure; one with a For Sale sign firmly bolted to its EPG and a Potential Big Success. 12 months on, “Failure” was liquidated, “For Sale” was successfully sold and now thrives under new management, whilst “Big Success” launched to much acclaim but is now in danger of sliding into that special brand of mediocrity that comes with the premature depletion of both funds and energy so familiar to channels in their first few months on air.
The year ahead looks like being a phenomenally busy one – with more interest than ever in launching in the UK (thanks to the economic climate which sees more TV being consumed than ever before, and a glut of potential investors with nowhere exciting to put their money). I am going into 2011 with a handful of new broadcast clients, each with very different objectives, financial structures, programming, challenges and expectations – but each aspiring to be the most engaging in their genre. How will they fare, will they launch at all, and what will I be writing about them 12 months hence?
Meet my clients: The Internationals – already broadcasting successfully for many years around the world but facing major issues with some of Ofcom’s new EU-based regulatory requirements; Music Mogul is figuring out the various challenges of competing against established channels like MTV along with getting to grips with the confusing PRS For Music system; the extremely well-funded Documentary Geezers with a fantastic idea and a challenging blue-sky commercial proposition; Film Buffs face stiff competition but are backed by an experienced team of die-hards with deep pockets and finally Mr. Entertainment with a glittering history of success in every other medium, wanting to extend that triumph to TV.
So, Big Question of the moment: which UK platform do they use? Aside from Sky and Freesat (none has the desire or finance to even look at anything beyond “windows” on the Holy Grail that is Freeview), how do I advise them of the benefits of any of these “new platforms”?
As a consumer, I’m not 100% sure what they are (or will be), or when (or if) they will deliver anything at all. How do I begin to extol the virtues of any system that relies on broadband, when I can’t even watch ten seconds of YouTube at home without entering some interminable buffering zone? (Before you ask, I’m not in the Outer Hebrides – where I suspect things are somewhat more sophisticated). How many more set top boxes can I cram under the TV?
As a media professional, I’ve seen a lot of coming and going in the past decade – remember Narrowstep? Remember Jalipo? What happened to them? Was I the only one who felt a modicum of comfort when they managed to shoehorn the comforting phrase “working with the BBC” into their press releases? I’ve witnessed the ups and downs of SeeSaw; Kangaroo was a leap too far; Canvas morphed into YouView, so what next? Until I see solid, measurable results from any of these new platforms, I’m skeptical.