Hard News by Russell Brown


The New Boss

Michael Carney notes the significance of TVNZ's content deal with the BBC - which includes the adult Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.

This after former programmer Annemarie Duff didn't even bid for the revived Doctor Who, because, she once told me, it was "not our audience". Prime's fangirl programmer Karen Bieleski will now presumably be quite put out.

I think Michael's correct in speculating that there has been a change of heart on BBC programming under Rick Ellis. When I had a briefing with a couple of TVNZ digital people last year, it almost seemed to me there was a chip on the shoulder about the Beeb.

No more, it seems, although they'll presumably be regretting letting the Documentary Channel swoop in and grab quite a lot of relatively inexpensive, quality factual programming from the BBC. (By the way, I gather that the handful of people who can receive it are seeing some quite good docos on the widescreen test channel coming off TVNZ's satellite. AFAIK, it's available to anyone with a standard DVB-S decoder and a dish.)

Although a lot of it won't be visible to the public, you can expect some significant changes of fortune within TVNZ this year, as people and projects that languished under Fraser get dusted off or re-prioritised. I won't pre-empt next week's Listener column, but I think the state broadcaster's 'Inspiring on Every Screen' strategy actually has some substance. Although I still think TVNZ OnDemand is going to struggle, for reasons outlined here.

And, quite frankly, there are still a few tricks that need learnin' up there on Hobson Street. The Listener column I wrote on the Karaoke High launch was in the Jan 6 issue that wasn't uploaded to the Listener website, but this is the relevant part:

TVNZ's bid to create a buzz around its Shortland Street holiday fill-in Karaoke High by making the first episode available on the internet a week before it screened was a commendable show of initiative. Broadcasters need to find ways to bridge old and new media environments, and putting the programme online was an innovative - and inexpensive - piece of marketing.

But, without wishing to seem churlish, the execution was lacking. TVNZ is entitled to love its website, and the public is used by now to being told to go to the site and enter a "keyword" to find a programme being promoted (the actual address of the show's home page at TVNZ is 62 characters long and essentially impossible to remember, let alone recite) - but why on earth didn't somebody register "karaokehigh.com"? Actually, somebody has - somebody called Dean, who lives in Devonport, bought it on November 16.

The broadcaster should have registered the .com domain name (and karaokehigh.co.nz) itself, and had it point to the show's page on its website. It should have slapped "karaokehigh.com" on everything to do with the show. Now, if it wants to try and sell the show overseas, it will be without a very basic marketing asset. Tellingly, the top Google search result for "karaoke high" is karaokehigh.com, and not the official page.

Also missing: the MySpace page. The target audience for the show might be induced to follow the instructions and find the right page on TVNZ's website, but it is already hanging around making new friends on social networking sites. Broadcasters - all media, for that matter - need to get used to the idea that their content will be unbundled and consumed, usually piecemeal, in places they do not comprehensively control.

By the same reasoning, there should also have been clips from the show posted on YouTube, which makes it trivially easy for kids to embed its videos in their blogs and MySpace pages and thus to feel some sense of ownership of what they're presenting. (The producers of Eating Media Lunch, which is available in full on TVNZ's website after screening, have twigged this and are posting short clips to YouTube themselves.)

Worse yet, the "keyword" instruction seemed to stop working during the lead-up to the programme screening. One day, it led directly to the home page for the show, where the advance episode was available - and the next to a list of site search results topped by the grim news headline "Man killed outside karaoke bar". That was hardly giving a good impression.

And TVNZ should stop saying the episodes can be "downloaded" from its website, because (unless you know a trick or two) they can't. It's in a streaming video format that means it can't be downloaded and saved to disc. Viewers without broadband will find the postage stamp-sized dial-up version a little unsatisfying.

Still, there's a happy note. The show itself (produced at Avalon in which looks like a dry run for next year's early-evening soap The Point) isn't bad at all. TVNZ just needs to get as savvy at marketing youth television as it is at making it.

Since I wrote it, a member of the public has also picked up karaokehigh.co.nz. Duh.

I've been using Zudeo, the new P2P portal app which is basically the Azureus BitTorrent client with some fancy graphic stuff to hide the scary bits (fortunately, the familiar old interface is still there behind an "Advanced" tab). It's not bad in concept, but it needs content - and it's getting it, via a deal with BBC Worldwide, which will see it used to distribute the likes of Doctor Who and Red Dwarf in the US. Interesting.

Rod Drury reckons Apple's iPhone is a winner. Some useful discussion there too. Interestingly, Sam Morgan chips in with the observation that Safari accounted for only 1.6% of browser visits on Trade Me in December. On Public Address, the figure is consistently ~8%, with another 4% of Firefox users on Macs.

Juha has three superb Internet meme clips involving abuse of a Furby and Tickle Me Elmo dolls. The last one is really creepy

And, finally you could always nominate one or more of the Public Address blogs in various categories for the Bloggies. Closes today, so don't muck about.

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