Tag Archives: Sky

The Broadcast Awards 2011 announced, with one glaring ommission.

3 Dec

The Broadcast Awards were announced today; the media industry version of the BAFTAs that lacks any of the glitz but has some credibility thanks to a Broadcast Now magazine subscription being on every media corporation’s Christmas list.

But a quick look down the shortlist of the awards screamed out an ommission that I can’t possibly find any justification for…

An Idiot Abroad: the most important Sky 1 show for years?

1 Dec

Sky have had it tough in recent times, with top brass accusations that their investment in content is not up to standard and losing a whole host of their biggest shows (including Lost, 24 and Prison Break) – but there’s been a bright spark on Sky 1 that may turn out to be the most important show in the channels recent history.

But before, let’s consider some of the considerations that Sky has made before commissioning a piece like this:

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RIP Bravo 1985-2010; the death of a true icon of British television.

16 Sep

One of the first non-terrestrial channels in the UK, the often risqué men’s brand Bravo, has been cast aside by new owners Sky in a recent channel shake-up after the succesful buy-out of the channel (and others) from Virgin Media.

It’s a seemingly quick-thinking, corporate decision that brings to an end a channel that’s been synonymous with softcore porn and gritty masculine shows since the days Thatcher was in charge and TV channels were run using videotapes and aerials. And it’s over that 25 years that this television brand did something that many must have thought was impossible – they transformed the word ‘bravo’ from just a word rich people in tops hats use to congratulate each other into something that resonates and completely defines what it means to be a ‘Burly British Bloke’.

In recent months the channel has gone through a significant rebrand, with a new logo and tagline (replacing the original ‘entertaining men since 1985’) which I think you’ll agree is a definite modernisation (and improvement) on the retro one at the top of the article:

So whether it’s a rushed, ill-though out decision that should be re-thought or the end of the brand that was tiring (even though the recent success of Spartacus: Blood & Sand and the recent acquisition of Hawaii Five-0 suggests not) remains to be seen. I personally can’t think of another channel that has the succinct brand identity for edgy male-aimed content, so the excuse from Sky that Bravo ‘is too similar to Sky 1’ is laughable – on a graph showing age and sex (with bubbles for each channel, with female channel Living the opposite end from Bravo) the bubble of Bravo and Sky 1 are next to each other, but the two channels show very different content. If you added a similarly younger male brand Dave into the mix it would fall right on top of Bravo, but they clearly attract very different audience (to put it simply, Dave attracts a high socio-economic class of people generally – Dave is obsessed with Stephen Fry and Bravo with Danny Dyer).

Could you imagine Dog The Bounty Hunter on Dave? Exactly. There’s a greater context that Sky seems to have ignored, and a huge chasm of content that will have no natural home any more.

But in memory of Bravo, here are some of the best (and worst) shows that makes Bravo the second most recognised  entertainment multi-channel name in television today:

I’ll admit I needed Wikipedia to tell me about the ‘really’ early days of Bravo, but apparently the channel began as a mostly black-and-white venture. It showed repeats of The Avengers (above) and The Prisoner. In the nineties it moved into horror and science fiction, with naughty content later at night, which has slowly moulded into the channel we see today (though if you’re reading this in 2011 then I guess the end of that sentence doesn’t make sense).

It’s the guilty pleasure of old repeats that cemented Bravo’s place as a daytime favourite, and A-Team was one of the shows that was seemingly endlessly repeated but was a nice one-stop place for any need for explosions and cheesy dialogue. Other brilliantly aged shows that were / are a staple on Bravo includes:

  • Airwolf
  • Knight Rider
  • Dukes Of Hazard
  • The Detectives
  • Starsky & Hutch
  • MacGyver
  • The New Adventures Of Superman (I know it’s nineties but that has aged wonderfully too)

Bravo was one of the only channels to really connect with a gaming audience (after Channel 4’s foray in the nineties with Gamesmaster and the embarrassing Sky 1 attempt ‘Gamezville’). A selection of the gaming shows that Bravo shows, usually on weekend mornings includes:

  • Gamer.tv
  • Gamepad
  • When Games Attack (with the brilliant Dominik Diamond)
  • Playr
  • A Gamers Guide To…
  • Gameface

Yes, there’s been quite a few but no other channel has fully committed to ‘trying’ to attract gamers like Bravo. I always thought, with a bit more of a budget, that the sister channel Bravo 2 would be the perfect place to have a gaming channel (and not one of those terrible foreign funded ones from the past, with presenters speaking in broken english around old trailers).

Monster Trucks!

Arguably the face of Bravo in the last five years or so, tough-as-nails ‘Dog’ (woof) and his motley crew of bounty hunters stalk the criminals (and often the innocent) of Hawaii (a small group of islands with, apparently, a large proportion of bad people). This show has shown a miraculous 7,500 times since 2002 (the most of any show on the channel, since ’02 at least).

Bravo has been pretty much the only channel to give a home to some of the absolute gems that has sprung out of Adult Swim and Comedy Central in recent years. Although FX has recently picked up the rights to Adult Swim, well for three of the biggest shows, Bravo went the proper step of dedicating all the late-night content to the ten minute long episodes of shows that would not normally find a home anywhere else on UK television (usually crude and not-at-all commercially sellable animations).

Some of the shows that Bravo have shown from Adult Swim (unbeknown to most people, which meant ratings were so low they had to drop it) include:

  • Frisky Dingo (pictured above)
  • Moral Orel
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force
  • Sealab 2021
  • Robot Chicken
  • Venture Bros.
  • Harvey Birdman
  • Squidbillies
  • Tom Goes To The Mayor
  • Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!

Most of these are shows worth seeing that the team at Bravo wanted to expose to the limited audience who would enjoy them. They even tried anime (like Afro Samurai) too – another genre with such limited appeal, and with nearly no chance of a real reward in terms of ratings or ad revenue, but it was catering to an audience the Bravo team seem determined to deliver content to that they love.

Bravo (and Bravo 2) has also not shied away from showing sporting content (and any channel aimed at the male audience usually goes down this alley, as Dave’s association with World Rally has shown). TNA: Impact is a regular peak-time show at weekends, as well as taking up a lot of Bravo 2’s current line-up, and the new seasons of Ultimate Fighter and other UFC content were often shared with (the now non-existent) Setanta. Bravo also recently paid host to the World Darts Championship and also attempted to bring back Football Italia a few years ago (it bombed though, sadly).

Seriously, Monster Trucks!

Don’t they just make you want to go ‘raaaaaaaaa!!!‘?

Classic sci-fi has also been a staple on Bravo, especially with the (relatively) recent co-rights the channel has with the Star Trek brand. It’s Channel One (formally Virgin 1, which is also getting killed off by Sky) has taken the brunt of the content and repeated it to no end (with many now seeing Channel One only as ‘the channel with Star Trek repeats and Chuck’), but Bravo has aired the galactic adventures of Spock as well as a number of other sci-fi shows including:

  • Babylon 5
  • Battlestar Galactica (original series)
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • The Outer Limits
  • Earth: Final Conflict
  • Battle Of The Planets

Bravo has never shied away from showing the gritty and stark reality of ‘the normal bloke’, and they don’t portray it in the judgemental way that many do (looking at you Daily Mail). Shows like Street Crime UK show louts on the streets of Britain and teaches us all, in a strangely watchable way, the things that many of the actual viewers would probably partake in the next night. The channel also seems to have a massive respect for our national services – police especially – and revels in portraying them on television in a realistic manner.

The guys at Bravo seem to have sat down, compiled their research and found the programme genres that would best appeal to the type of ‘bloke’ that is so often misrepresented and bullied (in a sense) by the mainstream media.

One quote I’ll always remember from a scheduler at Bravo, about what types of shows they consider buying, is: “Sharks. Sharks always rate well on Bravo.”

Some of the shows that Bravo shows around cops and thugs and general loutish-ness:

  • Cops Uncut
  • Booze Britain
  • Cops On Camera: Disorderly Conduct
  • Costa Del Street Crime
  • Brit Cops: Frontline Crime
  • Beach Patrol
  • Sun, Sea and A&E
  • Brits Behind Bars: America’s Toughest Jails
  • Motorway Patrol
  • Surf Patrol
  • 24 Hour Booze Britain: Boozageddon? (actual title)

We had to talk about it because, well, it just isn’t Bravo without a bit of smut.

It’s not just ‘porn’ that Bravo is renowned for, hell that would be boring (Channel 5’s first few years of late-night softcore porn was the savior of most kids born in the late eighties), but some very ‘out there’ programming that would honestly have no other place on UK television. It would be no surprise to pass Bravo on the EPG and notice they are airing ‘My God, I’m My Dad!’ or ‘3001: A Sexy Odyssey’ (both of those are actual titles of Bravo shows).

Some of the erotic and weird series that’s featured on Bravo over the years have included:

  • Laid Bare
  • Eurotrash: The Sexy Bits
  • Sin Cities
  • Das Crazy Sex Show
  • Porno Valley
  • Vegas Virgins
  • Inside Spearmint Rhino
  • Striperella
  • Is That A Nail In Your Head?

And some of the brilliantly dishy and oddball sounding movies that have appeared on the channel include:

  • The Pleasure Planet
  • Femalien II
  • The Exotic Time Machine
  • The Virgins Of Sherwood Forest
  • The Exhibitionist Files
  • Dangerous Sex Games
  • 13 Erotic Ghosts
  • Naked Encounters

And a further plethora of similarly racy names (or bad puns on normal movie titles). With the end of Bravo (and Men & Motors) this type of late-night steamy action leaves, pretty much, the subscriptions channels and the internet the only place for worked up teenagers to find out ‘things’ in the midst of wooden acting, cheesy music and plots that are purely strung together to roughly connect sex scenes.

Big names (well, by ‘big’ I mean ‘quite well known’) have also associated themselves with Bravo. The two most notable are Danny Dyer (who presented various shows including ‘Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men’ and ‘The Real Football Factories’) and Alex Reid (Katy Price’s other half, who has signed up to do various fighting-type shows this year – culminating in a live fight sometime in the next couple of months), showing that the brand has resonance for celebrities looking to up their presence on TV but would simply not be looked at on a ‘bigger’ network…

Seriously, is there anything more manly than Monster Trucks though? Bravo are the only channel to my knowledge that shows monster truck content on British TV to any decent extent (1,500 episodes since 2002), and although it’s not really my cup of tea (I’m not masculine enough for it) it’s just one of those charmingly raw, noisy and dirty things that completely exemplifies what Bravo stands for.

And lastly, Bravo’s reputation has peaked in the last year or so thanks to a re-energized team who were determined to modernize the channel, commission some ‘quality’ content and attract a wider audience. It began tentatively with Leverage, the American drama that is much like Hustle, which has been a runaway success on the channel. The big, big game-changer for Bravo has been, of course, Spartacus: Blood & Sand. Averaging over 700k for each episode, well above anything previously seen on the channel, it has transformed Bravo into a channel to be reckoned with – and with the recent acquisition of Hawaii Five-0, one of the biggest new shows of the US television season, it looked like this rebirth of the brand was to continue unabated.

That is, until the beast of Sky came in…

There’s never been a channel like it before and, to be honest, I don’t think there ever will be again.  The content of Bravo will be sifted off to other broadcasters )in a mish-mash way probably) and will probably never be given the exposure that Bravo offered so many shows to bloom with. My guess is that much of the content will be thrown on to Sky 2 (currently a time-shift channel for Sky 1, basically), Sky 3 or FX, which I imagine a board of suit-wearing directors at Sky must see as a great idea – they don’t seem to realise the brand of ‘Bravo’, even just the name, is important and should be treasured.

But alas…

Bravo – we salute you!

That PVR problem…

26 Aug

Guardian Media, and various other publications, reported a few days ago that 86% of viewers who watch shows on PVR (by recording shows on Sky+, V+ etc) skip the advertising by fast-forwarding through them.

Intrigued, I had a look at two of the biggest shows in the UK this year (Lost on Sky 1 and Spartacus: Blood & Sand on Bravo) to see the impact PVR had on commercial viewing figures.

I studied the finale of both shows, where PVR usage was most profound (especially as the Lost finale was aired at 5am)  – the crucial thing to notice is the massive drop off at the point of advertising breaks, with practically zero viewers watching the adverts of these shows on recorded playback.

Why is this a problem?

PVR use is on the increase and it doesn’t look like the rise will stop any time soon (thanks to the cheaper availability of Sky+, V+, Freeview+ etc), so broadcast sales houses are fighting to find ways to convince agencies and advertisers that television is still a medium worth exposing their brand on. But the sheer volume of eyeballs that was TV’s big sell is slowly frittering away, as people choose to record and skip the advert instead of watching live and having to watch through them.

Which channels are most affected by the PVR problem?

A number of channels have a starterlingly high number of PVR viewers, which therefore means viewers who will rarely sit through the adverts. These channels therefore lose billions of impacts to this and are struggling to find ways to get viewers to watch the programmes at the exact time they air.

The top 15 channels most affected by the PVR problem in peak hours (8pm-11pm) in 2010

(source: BARB, Jan-August 26th 2010)

  1. Sky 1 – 64% live viewers
  2. Living – 71%
  3. BBC HD 72%
  4. Sky Real Lives – 74%
  5. Bravo – 74%
  6. MTV – 74%
  7. Syfy – 75%
  8. FX – 78%
  9. E! – 79%
  10. The Style Network – 79%
  11. Channel 4 – 80%
  12. Diva – 80%
  13. E4 – 82%
  14. Sky Arts 1 – 82%
  15. CBS Drama – 83%

The results are startling, as 36% of Sky 1’s audience in peak are watching it on recorded viewing – and with (if the news is correct) 86% of those viewers fast-forwarding through the adverts, that means potentially 30% (or so) of Sky 1’s advertising revenue in peak has been lost this year thanks to PVR use. And Channel 4 is being affected majorly too – 20% of their peak-time viewers are watching recorded viewing, so that’s a big chunk of the commercial impact pie gone.

One odd trend I noticed in that list, and a surprise one too in many ways, is the amount of female-aimed channels in that list – Living, Diva, Style Network, MTV and E!  all featured have a high proportion of PVR viewers – it seems it’s the women most wanting to avoid the ads!

The only unaffected channel in that list is BBC HD, the lucky buggers.

Analysis

I had a look at the minute-by-minute audience for the finale of both Lost and Spartacus: Blood & Sand, two shows renowned for having high PVR viewing, to see what the drop-off is when the advert breaks arrives. The results are astonishing:

Do you see the viewer drop-off from that first ad break on the graph? Literally every PVR viewer skipped the adverts for a minute there! This meant that there was no commercial gain from the viewers watching the show non-live for a minute and less than 5% gain for the rest.

That’s right, the episode ‘lost’ over 90% of viewers at the ad breaks from the PVR viewers (whilst the live viewing line stayed almost straight, meaning no viewers were lost when the ads played for those watching at the time of it airing). Sky put the episode on at 5am for the dedicated viewers and to ‘beat the pirates’, but in doing so obviously sacrificed a lot of commercial revenue. And I don’t get how they ‘beat the pirates’ by knowingly putting the episode at a – that would guarantee such a massive percent of PVR viewing and therefore losing more money than they would have made – other than a purely branding stunt, it looks like the pirates won that one.

I know this is an extreme example, as this is undoubtedly one of the most PVRed moments in the history of television (if not the most), but to see the audience go from over 1 million to less than 100k in the space of a minute demonstrates the huge uphill battle TV buyers have.

The story is even more pronounced with the finale of Spartacus: Blood & Sand, with less than 5% of PVR viewers staying to watch the adverts. That means the big numbers the usually small digital channel had achieved with the show were wasted, as there was barely any commercial impact gain from the live viewing figure (of just above 350k, which is still impressive for the channel). It may have been a brand-savior for a channel previously thought of for smut and Danny Dyer, but that only goes a limited way.

There isn’t an over-arching solution to this post, mainly because methods are slowly being brought into place to tackle the problem. Product placement is the main one, although I’m still jittery about that thought. Encouraging appointment-to-view programming, like live events, is another option – although I can’t think of many more rivetting appointment-to-view TV moments than the Lost finale (and that backfired!). Encouraging cross-platform advertising is another favourite, although I’m still skeptical about the effect of banner advertising on the internet (no matter how many flawed surveys come out in support of it).

My main point is that PVR usage is even worse than Mediacom and various other media industry bodies are letting on, and the broadcasters and sales houses are very aware of this. So hearing that the newest American drama or ‘must watch’ show is getting big numbers sounds impressive but if you take a closer look those numbers are not being transferred into money like they used to – 1.2 million Lost viewers ten years ago was 1.2 million people watching the ads (give or take a small % turning over during the ad break), now it’s barely a tenth of that.

A number of offices, with eager TV sales people desperately scrambling for extra numbers, must be resenting the day Sky + (and the various competitors) hit the market. And it’s going to require creative solutions to tackle this before it’s too late – sadly it’s the viewers who will pay the ultimate price, as less revenue to channels means tighter budgets for programming in the future.