of the Box
… And there’s absolutely no business like show business. Oink!’s very own show biz editor has been digging and delving and getting to grips with the ups and downs and the ins and outs of what’s been happening - and why - in TV and around “the biz”. Here he is! Hammond Egg!
Tea Time TV
TV was very limited in those days. It could, however, be relied upon to deliver what the producers thought was the very best entertainment. The BBC news and later on the Independent Television News (ITN) became the benchmark or the standard by which news programmes the world over are compared. The biggest stars of the day appeared on ‘the box’ and of course we all dug Andy Pandy!!
Today, everything has changed: the way we view TV; when we watch it; how we watch it; how long we watch it; the production processes - even our role as ‘audience’.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Many years ago when the world existed in black and white. Colour hadn’t been invented. Millions of children all over Britain would wait impatiently, sitting neatly around the television set for their very own TV to begin. Children’s Hour and Watch With Mother was something not to missed. The BBC reined supreme and shows like Andy Pandy, the Wooden Tops and Bill and Ben enthralled us all.
The television was a big hunk of highly polished wooden furniture, sometimes hidden from view behind cupboard doors and invariably placed royally in pride-of-place in the living rooms of Britain.
What We Watched, Then.
We were happy to watch Saturday afternoon sports – football, horseracing, some wresting and athletics - and Sunday Night at The London Palladium. Plays were plays acted live on air, we had series and variety shows and the whole family watched one programme at a time, all together. Television stopped its daily broadcasts at around 11.30pm, the National Anthem was played, and we all went to bed.
Today, TV is round 24/7, watched on everything from a digital screen to a computer to a mobile phone - even a tablet. Soon, very soon, we’ll be watching TV through an ocular device. And we have hundreds and hundreds of channels at our beck and call. SKY, cable and satellite broadcasters unleashed an appetite in us for more and more programmes, even one’s we’d seen dozens of times before. Especially ones we had seen before. In fact, broadcasters now flourish on repeats! It’s big news (and great business) to have repeats of Friends, Family Man, Star Trek. We watch and some of us even ‘speak along’ with the shows, we know them so well.
A Giant TV Machine!
Plays and series are produced, of course, but now there’s a need to feed the giant TV machine with more and more programmes. There are only so many films that have ever been produced at all, and only a relatively smaller number that are any good. Which is why you’ll see one movie played over and over. Actually there is a sound reason for repeats. Unless it’s the BBC, the broadcaster makes its money from advertising or subscriptions. When it buys in a programme, or a series or a film, it buys the right to show them a number of times. Usually two or three for a major programme or film, many more times for something which is older or not so ‘special’. These programmes, whatever they are, help fill the broadcaster’s airtime and the cheaper it can do that each hour, the more money it is going to make. Simples (as the ad says!).
How Much Does It Cost?
One of the reasons we have so many reality shows, and celebrity dish washer-type programmes, is that they’re cheap. Cheap to make, and cheap to buy. So broadcasters will use them to fill up their programming time, usually at off peak times of the day or night. Peak viewing is when broadcasters know when the majority of people will be watching. The Olympics had peak viewing figures; so, too, do some of our most popular shows: Coronation Street, Eastenders, to name but two.
...And Making Money
The higher the viewing figures, the more the broadcaster can charge for the advertising. SKY makes a fortune from football, as it knows it can charge viewers good money to subscribe for great football. In turn, SKY can pay small fortunes for the TV rights to premiere football, for instance.
Until SKY came along, there was only the BBC and ITV and Channel 4 who battled it out every week trying to outdo each other by grabbing the largest TV audience. It was simple then. You could gauge who was watching the programmes for a start, because there was only so many TV sets sold. Nowadays, when TV can be viewed on more and more technology, it’s becoming difficult to assess who is watching what, and more importantly when. Because, now we can watch what we like, when we like, we can strip out commercials if they’re a nuisance to us, and we can even choose how we’re going to view the programmes – on the computer, on the TV set, on the tablet…
“The Box”, as we all used to refer affectionately to the television set, is not the friendly box any more, sitting in the living room waiting to be switched on and glowing with fun and news to the family audiences it entertained.
TV is definitely out of the box, now.