As patrons of the Royal Television Society, we were delighted to attend the annual RTS Conference on 27th September at King’s Place, London. It was an extremely well-planned event and we heard some great industry leaders’ insights. Here is a bite-sized round up of what was discussed.
- Diversity and the BBC charter
Ofcom chief executive Sharon White pledged to ramp up the focus on diversity in the requirements placed on the BBC, although she’s confident that these efforts won’t result in any punishments on the broadcasters for failing to fulfil their duties. “With the industry and regulator working together we can do the right thing”, she said.
- Millennials and Pay TV
Steve Burke, the CEO of NBCUniversal, is adamant that while millennials currently aren’t by and large subscribers of Pay TV, they will enter the fold as they get older “when they start to earn a decent amount of money”. He highlighted that viewers are no longer limited to linear television, and this is a permanent change. Ultimately, international business growth is vital if they are to compete with the big US media rivals such as Fox, Walt Disney Company and Time Warner.He also mentioned the partnership between NBCU and Buzzfeed (which NBCU has an investment in) to create a Snapchat discover channel. He emphasized that Millennials are spending a large portion of time on social media, therefore companies like NBCU need to invest in modern two way communications with audiences if they are to entice younger viewers to primetime.
3. Bake Off
The most column inches undoubtedly went to the on-stage spat between Jay Hunt and James Purnell over the UK’s hottest property, the Great British Bake Off. Purnell suggested the deal between Love Productions and Channel 4 was at odds with Channel 4’s Born Risky strategy, and called for tighter regulations on C4, claiming there is a “chasm” between the 100+ regulations governing the BBC and the way Ofcom oversees C4. To which, Hunt reiterated that C4 takes no public money, and attested that the baking format will play into their cross-subsidy model. She called for the BBC to “[think] long and hard about how that situation has arisen”.
Josh Berger warned that broadcasters could pull out of the UK to reach audiences in continental Europe, claiming that about half of the 1100 licensed British channels are aimed at audiences outside of the UK. Since each country and sector has to be negotiated separately, the will-they-won’t-they nature of the Brexit discussions show no sign of dying down.
5. Netflix and original British programming
Meanwhile, Netflix is committing to commissioning British original programming and developing coproduction partnerships. Ted Sarandos affirmed that a dozen Netflix buyers will be attending Mipcom this year, and that Netflix are extremely engaged with British content producers, hinting that there is more to come for original British programming on the platform beyond The Crown and Our Planet.
6. Netflix and the golden age of television
Also, two thirds of viewing time is now spent on TV series rather than films on Netflix, according to Ted Sarandos. He affirmed the importance of commissioning originals rather than licensing high profile content, but also defended making both film and TV. He said that in the modern age, waiting months for a film to appear on a streaming site “doesn’t make a lot of sense”, and therefore Netflix will continue to invest in films that consumers can watch when they open. He claims that this strategy will distinguish Netflix as a “destination” rather than an outlet for programming available on other services.
7. Art and technology
More praise for the British TV sector, as Matt Hancock, the UK’s new culture secretary, praised it as “one of the UK’s greatest success stories”, having grown at twice the rate of the rest of the economy, and generating more than £13 billion in revenue annually. He also discussed the challenges and opportunities that changing viewing habits present, such as the fact that there are 4.4 million Netflix UK subscribers and the growing synergies between art and new technologies; “the rules are being rewritten. This can and should be another golden age of creativity”.
We’d like to congratulate the RTS on hosting such a thought-provoking and worthwhile event.