Royal Television Society – ‘Going Round In Circles’

by danhon

Rough transcript of the RTS event ‘Going Round In Circles’

Royal Television Society – Early Evening Events

8 May 2008: ‘Going Round In Circles’

Why Is 360 Commissioning The Future of Television? Sponsored by DLA Piper


Danny Cohen
Controller, BBC Three

Roger Graef OBE
CEO, Films of Record

Peter Cowley
Managing Director of Digital Media – Endemol UK

Chair: Janine Gibson
Editor-in-Chief, MediaGuardian

360 degree commissioning has become the buzz word among all broadcasters, commissioners and producers. 360 means programmes are not just on our TV screens, but online and on mobile.

Does this formula work for every genre and what are some of the best examples we’ve seen?

The panel will discuss what 360 really means and if it can ever work.

JG intro.

JG – Danny – define 360? You must have a brochure.

DC – in its simplest terms – content across all platforms, at the same time, instead of commission a television program, then think we need a website bit.

JG – Is that multiplatform, or is it 360?

PC – I disagree – cross-platform and 360 – for 8-9 years, we’ve been working cross-platform, you have a website and a TV show and they feed off each other. In those days, the money was in commissioning TV. From my producer perspective, if you have a great idea and you go to the BBC – you fit in the most appropriate platform (radio, tv, newspaper) – it could be one platform or many. You don’t want to go: I must go online and mobile and telly. This is a young person thing, they’re on myspace, but we want a mass reach telly show.

DC – I think that’s right. We’ve got to be careful – at the BBC particularly – to stop or not be in the position to have a great tv idea but not do a website for it.

PC – “I’ve got a good idea” – could you go – that’s a radio idea, or that should only be on online or mobile.

RG – to me, what we do is content. The content is then distributed, wherever you can get your hands on it. Making a programme is only one bit of it. We stage conferences, we have an internet element which is important, “in search of law and order” – no one watched it, it was alongside Pride and Prejudice – no one saw it, but they engaged in the content. That’s a 360 experience. C4 was included in that from the beginning. Column inches – that’s a success. They’re remembered, they enter the ether, the conversation. Have a conversation in as many ways as possible. How do you measure success? More broadly – 360 needs a better definition than who watched it overnight.

JG – the spin-off idea, for a while – programme information, an article, an event – why 360 latched on now – is this part of the process?

DC – we’re all in the business of getting people to absorb and watch our content – I think TV is going to die anytime soon – for young audiences – they can do more than one thing at the time – they’re watching television. It’s a recognition of behavioural change. We know about the overnights and the impact on commercial futures – as people absorb content on different platforms measurable in different ways – you’ve got to get to grips with that. If you take a show like Doctor Who – we did research recently – 8m people watched the first episode on its first BBC 1 transmission – when you add in BBC3 and iPlayer, 40-50% more people had seen that episode. What did that do? Doctor Who is a specific example, it has a big internet following. You can’t measure on next day or television figures anymore.

JG – is that a commissioning factor, or a many broadcast window point?

DC – I think it’s both – we take account of AIs are significant, ratings to justify licence fee, but how to have a consolidated figure across platforms.

JG – the key to what you do on Enemol – building around an idea, not just building a TV programme

PC – we learned a lot from Big Brother – people are viewing a lot of video – audience behaviour – if you’re 18 you’re different from 16, the adaptability is crucial. We’ve started producing shows for online and mobile – they behave in different ways – a “show” isn’t the right word – it goes out on Bebo – well of course we should get that on television. The story of what we’re trying to tell on Bebo probably doesn’t work on television. Trying to understand storytelling and that core of where you should tell that story. It is really difficult if you’re trying to assess different platforms – YouTube does one thing, iPlayer does another, BBC3 etc. How do you pull all of that together?

BBC is slightly different, but in the commercial world – what’s the ROI on the commission – theatrical release, the DVD release, a long tail of money coming back – more coming out, possibly, on DVD and VOD than theatrical. The overnights are in one way redundant. It’s very complicated.

JG – where does Endemol get its money?

PC – it’s adaptabliity – there are 4 broad areas, as a digital person looking at the tv industry, it’s nice to get commission – you tend to be fully funded, you can take your production, keep the rights, sell it on a second time. Great if you can get commissioned, sell it on through public distribution channels, but increasingly looking at the consumer paying (less likely) and then back into advertising and sponsorship – product integration, product placement – brands and what they want to get out of it. I’ve seen brands have bigger sites than media sites. We have to adapt and change.

RG – I was going to make a distinction – I want to pick up, this question of how you measure success – money or reach or what. If you produce a long tail – the definition of success around 360 is tremendously valuable. It’s a bit like 3 dimensional chess. It’s quite hard. It is hard, your brain hurts. THat’s kind of a metaphor for what we’re talking about – lots of people in the same game using the same pieces. What I find frustrating – in several programmes, on SBS in Australia, there was an opportunity to use the internet to mention the film we were making – white riots/muslim riots – to use that to collect opinions about what happened. Because it was part of a season, it seemed to me here was a film that would start a conversation and last through the season and engage people who would say “I was there” – they couldn’t see the value of the longer tail and the conversation when the money came to mind.  For me, the measurement is the frustration. It’s like black and white – when you see this, you see in colour. Parenting series – BBC show – million hits, only 400k viewers, but has become essential “using”, but not viewing. It’s there, it’s one of the most popular things on the web.

JG – You can’t monetise extra content…

PC – We had a conversation about marketing and editorial, the lines are blurring, if you’re promoting a programme before it goes on air, there’s editorial content, you might premiere it online, are you marketing the tv show, or is that 360 degrees – a myspace page that has a premiere – it’s difficult, you’re friends with the show.

JG – Lily Allen and Friends – the only example where I can see how a 360 commission might work.

DC – It’s been a success on every level. Studio entertainment ratings have been a success, btu from its first line of pitch, it was meant to live across tv and web – the site was as important as the show, the two influenced each other. The website viewers – audience – choose the content on the tv show, inform questions and so on. We’ve had really good use of that website and good AI qualitative stuff. We’re thrilled about that, it helped that she grew out of that culture. It’s one where we feel like we got that right.

JG – Where hasn’t it worked?

DC – Endemol / BBC3 thing – Upstaged. We’ve all got to really embrace failure because there’s a wild west feel to this, we’re making it up as we go along, we’re going to make mistakes if we make big things. I don’t think it worked as an entertainment experience. Upstaged was this mixture of tv show, web show, talent show – I think, the web experience was too like the tv experience, the web part wasn’t sufficiently driven and directed to web usage and tv usage.

PC – It was a talent show to make use of people uploading – cast through uploading videos. Take that through to a show.

DC – I think – a bullshitty phrase – falling forwards, when you fall, you fall forwards, you learn something. In the BBC, it pushed the BBC to break a lot of its own rules – that’s a good thing – learn new expertise in building stuff.

PC – It’s a difficult thing with broadcasters, I won’t just focus on Upstaged. The problem with a lot – all terrestrial and digital broadcasters – their web presence isn’t as big as their tv presence. To use the website – just the BBC – even though it has massive reach through use, solely, is wrong in some ways, from a purist, producer point of view, you want to get through to the mass audience, in the marketplace for video upload, you’ve got Youtube, etc, hundreds of these sites, I think the BBC’s going towards this, how do you not just think about – where the audience is – Upstaged has taught us a more distributed model, you’re not number one media owner it hat area. There’s a chicken and egg and if you’re a commercial broadcaster – to monetise that audience – you’ve got to get close to them – sell the advertising, bring them to when they don’t want to be there or they might go to understand what X-Factor is, but not engage with their friends on If you bring them back or find ways of monetising them in the void, that’s a big debate going forwards. We’re just seeing – the BBC has a YouTube site and other sites coming on – itv is slighty late comign to this on MSN – you’ve got to go out there.

DC – The BBC first got that wrong – you couldn’t take the clips on YouTube and embed them when the BBC started – moving stuff – it took them a while to make the clips embeddable elsewhere.

JG – but “stop taking down my Top Gear clips”

PC – I think there’s – control – from a policy or commercial or misunderstanding point of view are all in a melting pot. We’ve got a good example with BBC3 at the moment – The Wall on BBC3, there’s been a clip that began life on the BBC site – Facebloke – that hit the Guardian viral chart, it did quite well on BBC when we put it up there, but hit mass market when we put it on YouTube. Not because BBC is the wrong place, but it should also be in other places. We need to adapt to that, we have to do that earlier and not be scared.

JG – Painful example I wrote about in Televisual – we did weblifes, the first documentary series on they were excited about it, no one could watch it, the site wasn’t ready, no Mac users could watch it, it kept crashing, we wanted to take it to YouTube, in its second incarnation they were ready for that, but marketing people said – no figures, no one could watch it, they loved the content. The other interesting problem – you’ve got to win this argument – at least plug us properly and give us the own space on your webpage, because they’re still tv oriented – Corrie got the top, one week we were lead story. First documentary series, real stuff, just disappeared. Couldn’t get it back again.

PC – Broadcasters can do that on tv – promote stuff – why they can’t do that online, I don’t know.

JG – Marketing – the Skins point – the bleeding in, 360 material is marketing – intrinsically editorial?

DC – An example of that – we did online marketing of Skins before it launched as a tv series, it was impactful in building momentum – it’s about individuals, Lindsay Nuttall was at C4 marketing at the time, she really drove that, but the truth was she was taking content and providign it on platforms that seemed like marketing, but was just presenting the content to audiences. Where that comes out of – marketing, or production.

JG – Auditioning via YouTube?

DC – You could write the music for a scene, choose what happens, a minisode online straight afterwards, a big general web presence that we worked hard on in collaboration with MySpace. With the BBC now, it’s coming from production teams now – are marketing going to do it or producers? We did this thing – World Survivors – documentary thing – and what they did, production, they made 90 2 minute versions it’s had a fascinating effect for us, documentary had a great effect for us, half a million on BBC3, the audience kept growing, it was a good documentary, but these minisodes were floating around – so by transmission, it was 900k on repeat. Adapting techniques for BBC 1 – minisodes.

JG – Breaking Panorama into 2 minutes?!

DC – Yeah! Using web versions to move stuff around.

PC – They’re using both, watching both.

DC – People will watch full length programmes in their oodles online. I’m a geek, I went to this thing where you talk to the audience, she was describing how iPlayer had changed not when she watched but what she watched. e.g. Holby City – she sort of liked it, so she never watched it because she never could be around – I found that so interesting – what you watch and when.

PC – It’s amazing

DC – I know soaps are a bit below…

JG – It does sound a bit like – we’ll make them here, market them here, and call it 360 degree

DC – That’s not 360 commissioning – that’s things on different platforms affecting how/what people watch

RG – Grand Designs website takes you across the whole building trade, it does lead you

JG – We’re not talking about the game, the mobile, the DVD, the get the t-shirt aspect

DC – I do anyway. Mighty Boosh are doing a festival, we’re not part of that.

JG – We’ve got a programme idea, then we get in BBC Worldwide, Endemol Department of Stageshows

PC – If you speak to creative, no, if you speak to business, absolutely, how those things marry up, I have no idea. Hollywood movies are different – tv is quite different, requires quite a lot of forwardness, it’s not just about flogging stuff. It’s about – what’s good in a multiplatform world, is that you can move people aroudn your brand. TV is a great platform to get large groups of people together, appointments to view, but online, it’s hugely fragmented. Whether it’s MSN or MySpace, whoever the biggest site is in the UK, their reach is probably only 30% of online audience. How do you get people to engage with you online – use a big TV brand, or big Hollywood movie brand, people commercialise very well, using games or content together, strip out tv for a moment, we’re seeing how – how do youg et people to watch video, online, in a world where no one’s good at marketing. We’re finding if you embed games and video content together, people know how to play games. Once they find video, they stay withi t .Theer’s a company taht wev’e invested in who make horror shows online, they’re on MySpacea t the moment, they have a game alongside it, you can watch passively/episodic, or interestingly, MySpace promote the game more – you find clues in th video to solve something in the game. They use the word play for part of the vision for online, share. Some of the audience behaviour online, you’ve got to be smart to make video work off television. 360 commisioning – we’ve got to learn, all the evidence out there. How do you make this work? Come analogue switch off, the big reach channels may not be there.

JG – I draw the line at asking Danny to define find, play, share. Is this applicable to all drama?

RG – People don’t realise – the gaming dimension is not from above, is to convey complicated information through games, that people are scared of. Going to Channel 4 about globalisation – promoted on telly and become a game, an online game where schools play against each other – we fell apart, too many parents would like it, it wouldn’t reach the kids. Amazing game conference in Olympia, game people, they said it was brilliant – it’s too good to make it to the kids, the teachers and parents will love it, kids won’t. There’s a whole world. There’s crossover – a workshop I’ve been to – gamers meet television people meet internet folk and crossover, the gamers were the ones we got really excited about. Untapped territory that would animate stuff.

PC – Grand Theft Auto if you’re 20 years old, sells in its millions.

JG – Are there genres, your big Saturday night show, show tours, where you can’t get an idea through unless you can tick boxes on a 360 wheel…

DC – For me, I would hope not, we’d be bigger idiots if we turn down good tv ideas if they didn’t have the right other bits. I believe you’ve got to have a good tv bit for it to have a good online idea. We shouldn’t get to a point where it’s got to have an online bit for it to work on tv. We have to use tv to drive people. Online is more fragmented if you don’t drive people. On Gavin and Stacey, we shorten the online premiere window, I want to make sure the tv ep gets a big audience.

JG – I know Andy Zane is here – talk to me about childrens. Is Childrens a genre where it’s hard to get stuff done without the full plan?

AZ – all the – the difference for us, when we think 360 – one idea, lots of different forms of content, commissioned at the same time, the exciting stuff we do – BBC Kids Radio – most BBC preschool animation on Radio 6 – there’s a plan to have a kids radio station, that’s alongside DVD, website, download to own, magazines, books, I don’t think 360 just means a digital world

JG – Childrens programmes been made for a decade or so – this is why…

DC – Website as important as the telly show

PC – Charlie and Lola age group – one show that I always talk about from the Endemol stable – Roar, a zoo show, we were getting more uniques to the website than watched the programme, that’s – if you’re seven, that’s what you do more of, because we had a compelling game, we built cheat codes into the tv show, so they have to watch the show to get cheat codes to get better – that’s where most of the money came from. In that young demo, younger than teenagers, they inherently don’t care, no preconceived idea. Playing a game is much more fun at that age…

JG – I loved the Spooks and Torchwood game, but isn’t it the most fantastic waste of money – I’m going to watch it anyway. I’m going to be trapped, you’re spending money on elaborate games, win lovely Bafta interactive award, I don’t get how that is…

DC – It depends on the audience. As habits change, the audience is online, GTA – gaming is part of the audience now, the licence fee is not just about television, it’s about all these platforms, serve the audience in gaming, on radio, learning how to do that better – good examples of how we got it right. Building good games is really hard.

PC – If you’ve got an idea like spooks, you should be telling the story in different ways, you can engage in a different way.

RG – just a good television idea that doesn’t have bits attached still do it – when doing 360, our globalisation is a good example, because it wasn’t going to reach the audience as a game, we weren’t going to do it.

[ends for q&a session]