The Big Experiment has had decent press – not heaps, but a fair bit. This is good, if it highlights the challenges facing science education in the UK, and particularly if it entertains people a little along the way.
But I’m curious. It’s on Discovery, which last month accounted for 0.2% of viewing in homes with multi-channel TV. I don’t have access to the full data, but this show sadly isn’t in Discovery’s weekly top 10, putting its audience below 51,000 this week, and below 42,000 last week.
So it’s TV, but that doesn’t mean it’s huge. It’s down in the range where I don’t trust BARB figures on account of small sample size. Next, you have to consider that it’s on for just six weeks of the year.
Now, SciCast is hardly pushing huge page view numbers, but it’s growing nicely in the 40k page-views/month sort of bracket, and it feels like we’re just getting started. We haven’t hit all that many schools yet; we haven’t done anything with Bebo or MySpace; we don’t even have downloads, amazingly.
There’s clear growth potential, and over, say, a year, we’re already heading into the same audience reach territory as Discovery’s show. Plus, our stuff is freely available and usable by educators, families, and individuals, for the long term. Not to mention the skills value inherent in making the films yourself, which is what many of our current audience are doing.
So here’s the observation: The Big Experiment was sponsored by BT. Now, what they coughed up won’t have paid for the whole series. But I bet it would have paid for SciCast. Probably twice.
Making original content for the web is currently a precarious business. But this will, I think, change. If BT have got their money’s worth out of The Big Experiment, then our job is to demonstrate – with hard data – that we can do better than that.
Then the wheels really come off broadcast.