Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Future of Television

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  • Gregor Ronald,

    More proof that if you're 60+, broadcast TV has very little to offer. Yet I have more disposable income now than I've ever had, surely someone wants to sell stuff to my demographic? I doubt that a 20-something TV producer has any idea about how to do this, though.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Finlay Macdonald,

    Indeed. I've long thought that free-to-air TV has been finding its natural (i.e.commercial) equilibrium by maximising viewers for the lowest possible cost. Reality event TV is the best model so far, and it will increase. But what it also means is that many viewers turn away, download, do other stuff - until the mainstream channels become the domain of a certain kind of culture that really represents nothing more than shallow consumerism. Genuine long-form current affairs has largely gone, news is headlines with pictures, drama will slowly collapse (witness the industry currrently) and we'll all have Netflix accounts. It's a kind of globalism I guess.

    Since Apr 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Fast-forward through that, PVR-owner.

    Oh I don't know, I just didn't record it, so I didn't watch it

    (by which I mean I seldom watch live TV other than the news any more - if you want to sell me ads you're going to have to make something compelling enough that I actually choose to record it)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    Fundamentally there's nothing wrong with this. The viewership numbers clearly show that people like to watch it - and in the end TV is basically an entertainment medium. If viewers are entertained by it and choose to watch it then they're clearly doing their job.

    When the business model requires attracting viewers to fund the operation then there's little option but to shoot for the popular stuff that makes a profit.

    But fear not - at the same time we see the rise of cable channels, and subscription-based providers like Netflix. They do not have the same demands. They can fund shows on their merit (whatever that may be) so long as their overall offering is enough to keep viewers engaged in their subscription.

    While we tend to miss out on that locally at the moment, the nature of television is changing and in time there will surely come opportunities for the same model to find a way to impact on NZ production and content.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    But fear not – at the same time we see the rise of cable channels, and subscription-based providers like Netflix. They do not have the same demands. They can fund shows on their merit (whatever that may be) so long as their overall offering is enough to keep viewers engaged in their subscription.

    Which works well enough in larger markets. And for Sky, which has a hit with high-quality American drama on SOHO. But it's a big ask to expect subscription to fund local production in a market the size of this one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    TV3 is also doing a magnificent job of what it calls "engagement", which is basically getting people to amplify its reach via social media. There's nothing wrong with that -- I fired off my share of X-Factor Twitter funnies when that was on -- but I was staggered last night by quite how many people in my Twitter timeline were using the #TheBlockNZ hashtag.

    Yeah, I didn't watch any of The Block, but every night it was on, my timeline was always full of Block lolz (that didn't make much sense to me).

    But this is curious - last year I remember the first series of NZ's Got Talent being a big Twitter event, but this time around virtually no one in my timeline is tweeting about it. There's still plenty of action on the #nzgt hashtag though - just not in my Twitter experience.

    But then I did read somewhere that big TV attempts to get hashtag action happening (like talent shows where every contestant gets a hashtag) are starting to get a bit passe amongst viewers. Gretchen, stop trying to make #fetch happen.

    Meanwhile, it doesn't look like there'll be an NZ X Factor series next year. Or at least it wasn't part of the 2014 line-up announcement. NZ On Air won't fund a show like that two years in a row, so I guess it's just not economical for TV3 at the moment. 'Tis a pity, but we'll always have Homai Te Pakipaki.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    If they had a mind to, I'm sure Sky could use their free-to-air channel Prime to access NZOA funding in order to commission original content.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Which works well enough in larger markets. And for Sky, which has a hit with high-quality American drama on SOHO.

    The closest thing to a local example? Jane Campion's Top of the Lake screened here on pay channel BBC UKTV as the channel helped fund the production.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Which works well enough in larger markets. And for Sky, which has a hit with high-quality American drama on SOHO. But it's a big ask to expect subscription to fund local production in a market the size of this one.

    yes exactly - that's why we need public TV if we want anything more high-brow than Shortland St

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher, in reply to Simon Bennett,

    If they had a mind to, I'm sure Sky could use their free-to-air channel Prime to access NZOA funding in order to commission original content.

    They already do, and a lot of good telly comes out of it. Back Benches, the Exponents doco, the Shearing Gang (which is the sort of awesome series One used to make), and many more. Have a search through the NZ On Air funding decisions.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    I dunno, as a Beckettian paen to ennui and the futility of the human condition in the face of universal entropy, Shortland Street does a pretty consistent job.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    yes exactly – that’s why we need public TV if we want anything more high-brow than Shortland St

    It's a double-edged sword. TV is somewhat expensive to make, and, for better or worse, a lot of the "high-brow" stuff doesn't attract viewers. Then the cry from taxpayers/government/whoever is "why are we paying for stuff that no one watches"

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Gregor Ronald,

    Yet I have more disposable income now than I've ever had, surely someone wants to sell stuff to my demographic?

    Ditto. A phone call earlier in the week wanted to talk to a male in the household between 18 and 44 - can't oblige there - we're now outside the target demographic.

    So do advertisers really expect me to not buy any different brand for the rest of my life ? Interesting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • David MacGregor,

    The mainstream TV reality is that most people who want a ‘lean back’ experience – what ever is on their flatscreen when they get home at night are quite happy with it. I agree with Finlay MacDonald about Netflix solving that problem. For now I am happy that there is a really good selection of interesting documentaries on YouTube. If it’s on YouTube it must be compliant with rights, right? (After all – it’s not that outlaw outfit Mega!).

    Seriously though, program makers need to reframe the reality. If your paradigm is based on a kind of MIPCOM marketplace and broadcast economics – pack up your tent and go home. The kind of content that aired on Media 7/3 could easily be made with light equipment, very low overheads, narrowcasting through the web and possibly a subscriber model. Essentially podcasting. Other revenue streams like syndication with outlets like the On-Demand channels…who knows, I don’t know the economics. I heard that a number of marquee name journalists in the states are going out on their own bat. Niche content might attract lower numbers but the old trope: Where their are niches there are riches must have some currency? – even if it’s just NZ currency.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Feb 2007 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    I wish I could find it... I saw a survey, probably in the last year or so, that covered what people say they want from TV and what they actually watch.

    The gist is that while many people say they want to watch good* TV, but in reality they are watching the cheap entertainment instead.


    * I don't believe in the idea of "good" and "bad" TV, but you know what I mean - documentaries, and high-concept literary drama, etc etc...

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to David MacGregor,

    The kind of content that aired on Media 7/3 could easily be made with light equipment, very low overheads, narrowcasting through the web and possibly a subscriber model. Essentially podcasting. Other revenue streams like syndication with outlets like the On-Demand channels…who knows, I don’t know the economics.

    Media 3 was made with pretty light equipment - something that's only really become possible in the last few years, but that still doesn't make it cheap. Equipment is about the smallest part of the challenge. It takes people to make a show like that. Producers, writers, researchers, camera operators, reporters, editors, etc etc...

    While thousands would probably say they'd pay to watch Media 3, I suspect the actual number that would do so is *much* lower, and how much would they have to pay to cover just the basic production expenses?

    Of course this can work - today saw the release of the AKL DAZE Halloween special, funded entirely by viewers - the downside to this is fragmentation. The more people start to do it, the more lost in the noise they become. Look at podcasting - it used to be possible for podcasters to make a bit of money from their niche audience either through donations or outright subscriptions, but now there are so many podcasts it's almost impossible for any one to distinguish themselves and only the biggest - with hundreds of thousands of listeners - manage to make any meaningful income.

    And, of course, low cost production can also "look cheap" - if we want to see Game of Thrones we need to accept that it costs a million dollars an episode to make, or whatever.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Was it Akio Morita (Sony) who said something about never do Market Research, just observe people's behaviour.

    Those useless Market Research questions "Would you consider xyz.."

    Of course I'd consider it, would I actually hand over my hard earned $$$ for it, maybe not.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 504 posts Report Reply

  • James Blackman, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Ahhhhh another person who has become bound by the concept of "mainstream costs"
    While obstacles are put in the way economic public tv will never be a reality here - or anywhere. There ARE ways to produce television cheaply - get rid of the happy hours ad long lunches for a start!

    New Zealand • Since Nov 2011 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    a lot of the "high-brow" stuff doesn't attract viewers. Then the cry from taxpayers/government/whoever is "why are we paying for stuff that no one watches"

    The peoplemeter has become a relic of the analogue TV age, and AC Nielsen et al haven't bothered to update their methodologies & technologies.

    Also, TVNZ 6 & 7 had surprisingly high viewer numbers, so I've always thought that anti-intellectualism dressed up as fiscal restraint was the real reason for shutting down TVNZ 6 & 7. Especially when said fiscal restraint has turned out to be anything but - it seems if you happen to drive a Rolls and wear D&G, you can ask the Govt for as much dosh as you like. On the other hand, the previous Clark Govt simply didn't go far enough with TVNZ 6 & 7.

    I despair that anti-intellectualism has become a national sport that's taken on a life of its own. Little wonder that scientists and other smart people often have to jet overseas to even get work in their chosen fields.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to James Blackman,

    Ahhhhh another person who has become bound by the concept of “mainstream costs”
    While obstacles are put in the way economic public tv will never be a reality here – or anywhere. There ARE ways to produce television cheaply – get rid of the happy hours ad long lunches for a start!

    I work in TV. I understand the costs very well.

    But I've also worked on super low budget music videos and many other micro budget projects. I've made short films on an effectively zero-budget every year for more than a decade.

    But ultimately even if you can get the equipment cost down to zero you still have to pay people if you want to be serious about production. People are the cost, and people have to feed and house themselves.

    Production cost isn't really the issue. Audience and "monetisation" are the problems at whatever level you look at. Lot of people can address these issues in different ways, but ultimately for what we recognise as TV there isn't a lot of options - it's a fairly simple equation.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    They already do, and a lot of good telly comes out of it. Back Benches, the Exponents doco, the Shearing Gang (which is the sort of awesome series One used to make), and many more. Have a search through the NZ On Air funding decisions.

    Is The Shearing Gang fundamentally different from reality TV staples like Motorway Patrol, Airline, and Bondi Rescue? Day in the life of group of people employed in a particular line of work?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    The peoplemeter has become a relic of the analogue TV age, and AC Nielsen et al haven’t bothered to update their methodologies & technologies.

    What makes you say that? On-line viewing, and time-delayed viewing are no commonly included in ratings measures.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    The peoplemeter has become a relic of the analogue TV age, and AC Nielsen et al haven’t bothered to update their methodologies & technologies.

    They are trying, but it's a complicated business. They are pretty good at measuring the number of people viewing a given show (on air or on demand, even some time-shifted data) but obviously they can't really determine engagement.

    As it is, it's the best way we have to measure the reach of television.

    Also, TVNZ 6 & 7 had surprisingly high viewer numbers, so I’ve always thought that anti-intellectualism dressed up as fiscal restraint was the real reason for shutting down TVNZ 6 & 7. Especially when said fiscal restraint has turned out to be anything but – it seems if you happen to drive a Rolls and wear D&G, you can ask the Govt for as much dosh as you like. On the other hand, the previous Clark Govt simply didn’t go far enough with TVNZ 6 & 7.

    I liked TVNZ 6 & 7. And while their numbers were surprisingly they high they weren't objectively high. Both channels had very limited reach. But that's not really an issue.

    What was an issue was exactly what I've spoken about - when show or channels are somehow publicly funded then that public somehow feels like the shows are accountable to them. Unless we all agree that it's worth spending money to make certain programs, regardless of audience, then those channels also face the same sorts of pressures.

    I despair that anti-intellectualism has become a national sport that’s taken on a life of its own. Little wonder that scientists and other smart people often have to jet overseas to even get work in their chosen fields.

    There is similarly the opposite of that, I guess we could call it intellectualism - we suggest that somehow that things like reality TV or popular pulpy TV are somehow bad or a lesser thing. Why shouldn't we judge entirely on the audience response? A lot of people are more than happy to watch The Block and the X Factor, why should we suggest that is a problem?

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    I am playing devil’s advocate somewhat in these posts – I am a supporter of public television.

    But I don’t think that commercial TV as it stands currently owes us anything other than popular entertainment. For better or worse that’s the TV environment we live in, and expecting it to be anything other than what it is seems unreasonable.

    Anyway, I'm out now - my rendering is finished and I've got some TV to make :)

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH, in reply to David MacGregor,

    The mainstream TV reality is that most people who want a ‘lean back’ experience – what ever is on their flatscreen when they get home at night are quite happy with it.

    If that's true then the "high-brow" stuff should rate just as well as the reality TV shows, shouldn't it?

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

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