What I was really going to write in response to Gia’s post

OK, so having introduced you, dear reader, to the digital rights movement, I can now go off on one about TV and where it’s going. This is what I originally wrote in response to Gia’s post:

A year or so ago I was in a little seminar being addressed by Nigel Pickard, who’s the Director of Programmes at ITV. So far as programme makers are concerned, he’s The Man. The part of his presentation that struck home went like this:

“You’re all producers. You all think my job is to spend £850m a year on your work. It isn’t. My job is to sell at least £850m-worth of advertising space.”

There’s an extent to which that’s hyperbole for dramatic effect, but it does illustrate a major gulf between what people think commercial TV is about – more programmes – and what it’s actually about: making money. It is, after all, a business.

It’s also, of course, why the BBC is so important. Their entire job is to put decent media in front of lots of people. They’re going to find the shift from conventional TV painful, but they’ve been lifting their gaze into that future for some time now. As we saw at OpenTech last weekend with Backstage and Dirac and Kamaelia and the rest, they’re at least five years ahead of the commercial sector in terms of how they’re thinking. But we still don’t know what we’re shifting to. We don’t know what it looks like, nor how it’s delivered, nor how people consume it. Nor, for that matter, if they even will consume it. One catches glimpses of the future in things like the Podcasting phenomenon, which has gone from first glimmerings to more-or-less-mainstream in about a year.

I can see two ways this could pan out: either the BBC pulls something out of the bag and subsequently drags the rest of the broadcast industry along with it – most likely kicking and screaming and ungrateful and still trying to get its charter cancelled – or somebody does a movie download system right and TV eventually gives up trying to work it out for itself, rolls over, and hitches itself to that bandwagon. It’s hard to see anybody but Apple doing the latter, in part because everybody else still seems to be in denial about why the iPod and iTunes Music Store work, but… well, that’s a whole other post.

The people to watch are, I think, the advertising industry. There’s serious money involved there, and it’s hard to see how it flows without the relatively simple outlet that is TV. Broadcast TV isn’t so much one-to-many as few-to-shedloads; it’s a blunt instrument for advertisers, but it’s surprising how many worries drop out of the equation when you multiply by eight million pairs of eyeballs.

I begin to see how the BBC can survive the coming shift; I can sort of see how Sky will, since football is such a big draw; I have serious concerns about ITV; the ad industry? Answer hazy, ask again later.

What are they up to? What do the Saatchis and the Chiat/Days and the BBHs think? More to the point – what are their long-term plans?

Oh, and Gia: firstly, I’m not sure your trackbacks work, and secondly… sorry to have given you flack about the whole cat thing. I’m sure he’s lovely.

3 thoughts on “What I was really going to write in response to Gia’s post”

  1. Not sure if my trackback is working or not. It was last week… but it’s Haloscan and sometimes they get all whacked out… Don’t worry about ‘the cat thing’! I’ve been worrying for a few weeks that I was veering into CatBlog territory anyway. 🙂

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