The Future of Broadcasting and the BBC

roundabout.jpg

Although I still agree with much of Mark Pesce’s take on the Future of Television, Stephen Fry neatly sums up the worth of the BBC in an interesting speech he gave:

You know when you visit another country and you see that it spends more money on flowers for its roundabouts than we do, and you think … coo, why don’t we do that? How pretty. How pleasing. What a difference it makes. To spend money for the public good in a way that enriches, gives pleasure, improves the quality of life, that is something. That is a real achievement. It’s only flowers in a roundabout, but how wonderful. Well, we have the equivalent of flowers in the roundabout times a million: the BBC enriches the country in ways we will only discover when it has gone and it is too late to build it up again. We actually can afford the BBC, because we can’t afford not to.

(Photo: Povoa_de_Varzim on Flickr)

Hidden Gems in Apple’s Announcements

Of course there is the usual commentary on Steve Jobs’ new Apple announcements and no doubt this will add to the slush pile, but I think there are a few hidden gems in there too.

The new iPods with fancier screens and better battery lives are all great, etc. as is less packaging (though I think Apple have a long way to go here, especially with recycling their products). Yes, the new iTV announcement of an Apple-styled media centre is big news too as is downloading full movies from the new iTunes store. But we all knew it was coming and if you had a MacMini you could already do a lot of it.

What suddenly struck as a flash of the obvious was the Podcasting part of that. Okay, so you can share you media across the airwaves and watch them on your TV and many of us have already done this plugging our laptops into the TV. But I’ve never bothered to do it with Podcasts. Maybe because the content hasn’t been so great, but maybe because the equation of effort to hook up the laptop vs the level of quality of the content made it not really worthwhile.

I think the new iTunes with movie downloads are probably the driver to actually purchase an iTV (or whatever they end up calling it) box, especially as it’s pretty cheap. But the real interest is that it may prove to be the tipping point for independent content – i.e. Podcasts. That’s a really big deal hidden away in there. Essentially Apple are providing a very simple (and this is important for sit back TV viewing) channel for independently produced content – the Apple channel, if you like. Except of course it is smarter and you can have all the material downloaded with smart rules, etc. So it’s even better than a TV channel. That means that you can start reaching millions of people in their living rooms, just like TV, except without the networks.

Of course there will be the usual issues of production funding, etc. but some of that model has been discussed elsewhere by the likes of Mark Pesce. There is also plenty of content that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to produce, or content that professional content creators make in their spare time. I think this is bigger news than the movie downloads, which are basically an extension of the iTunes store model.

The other gems are the seemingly small tweaks to the user interface of iTunes and the iPods which are actually quite big leaps. I’m always impressed at Apple’s ability to introduce new GUI elements that simply feel like they might have been there all along and don’t jolt people’s current user patterns.

You Tube Advertising Dollars

Some enlightening “theoretical” figures being bounced around in Endgaget’s series about You Tube’s potential for generating revenue. Clicker contributor, Stephen Speicher, even came up with a new metric – “Eyeball Minutes” (but are these adjusted to account for those with only one eye?)

I have written quite often about this previously (see related links below), in particular the relationship to traditional TV shows and advertising. So it’s great to see some figures, however theoretical, being produced about how this might work. Speicher, once again, uses Judson Laipply’s “Evolution of Dance” clip as an example (my goodness, Judson must be pretty happy right now – 15,529,686 downloads as of today and it’s not even that funny):

Just for fun let’s do one other comparison. Let’s look at ad revenue:

Again we will use “Evolution of Dance” as a comparison. If you still don’t think that micro-content could be a macro business, consider the following. Six minutes of network content would be accompanied by 1 minute and 30 seconds of advertising. For a show with 15 million viewers, expect an ad rate in the neighborhood of 200k per 30 second slot. That’s right; “Evolution of Dance” would garner 600k dollars in ad revenue if calculated with basic “network math.

Check the all three stories for more – it’s an interesting read.

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Fake Beer in Germany

Fake booze, fake money. What else do you need?

Fake beer? In Germany? Sacrilege!

Slightly off topic for this blog, I know (well, okay, it’s about design and I live in Germany), but Deutsche-Welle have an entertaining story about the Schein Berlin agency in Berlin who create fake products for TV and film to avoid product placement issues.

This is real contrast for me compared to my experience with Australian TV, which seems to have programming content product-placed between branding and advertising. Most major sporting venues are also branded “Aussie Stadium”, “Telstra Stadium”, etc. and so are their sports teams. I imagine the U.S.A. is similar in this regard.

It must also keep those folk displaced by CGI visual effects employed in their model-making skills (a true art). But I felt a bit sorry for them when I read of their encounter with the fickle world of film:

Sometimes, they’re in for a shock, as was the case with “The Bourne Conspiracy.” The team built a complete Russian supermarket for the film, using hundreds of logos and labels, all of them invented.

“We spent half the night taping and stacking cartons, then we watched the film and were really disappointed at the way the camera simply rushed by,” Brehm said.

Nice to see fake operating systems keeping Adobe(!) Director alive and well too.

Photo (actually that’s a bottle of rum): Schein Berlin

Finland in Euro Monster Rock Shock

Lordi - Eurovision 2006 Winners

Once again I ‘accidentally’ ended up watching the Eurovision Song Contest. No really, I was reading and had the TV on in the background.

Anyway, once again, I ended up only seeing the re-cap of the performances and all of a sudden it’s like a scene from Lord of the Rings meets Black Sabbath – Finland’s entry was absolutely mad genius. What in Middle-Earth are they drinking up there in the fjords?

The band, Lordi, fronted by Mr. Lordi, sang Rock Hallelujah, thrashing it out with fireworks and crazy Finnish Orc-style monster outfits. And, of course, they won.

It’s take the Eurovision in a completely new direction. All those other shiny pop-groups with mini-skirted girls and smarmy Euro guys suddenly looked so passé. What with Greece’s attempt to turn the show into a high-tech amphitheatre that unfortunately looked like the set of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (complete with SMS ‘ask the audience’). The shiny, beautiful people must be crying into their own reflections in the mirror right now, poor darlings.

Meanwhile the Finnish monster boys will no doubt be partying into the night, ripping a few limbs off babies, the usual sort of thing. (UPDATE: Actually they are full of contradictions – vegetarian with Christian leanings. See this interview. )

I can’t let you go without a sample of the lyrics:

Hard Rock Hallelujah!
Hard Rock Hallelujah!

The saints are crippled
On this sinners’ night
Lost are the lambs with no guiding light

The walls come down like thunder
The rocks about to roll
It’s the Arockalypse
Now bare your soul

The ‘Arockalypse’ – Sigh. Such brilliance. Makes me proud to be European.