Yesterday I went to the Royal Television Society’s event “How to Get a Quick Hit” – the future of content production.
There was a fantastic panel – hosted by Heat’s Boyd Hilton – and it concerns an issue that the majority of company directors are chomping at the bit to take full advantage of. Considering all this I was surprised, and frankly a bit hurt, that the room appeared to be barely half-full. Even my quasi-Youtube sensation boyfriend’s interest couldn’t be piqued to go.
It was a really interesting and insightful evening. I’m not going to go through all the points that were raised but instead go through the panel and how they have each approached online content production.
Please note that all the quotes are paraphrased and are not verbatim. I’m sure the panel were much more eloquent and informed than I am working from my scrappy notes.
Celebrity amplifies audience numbers
ChannelFlip is an online broadcaster and production company. You may not have heard of them but you will probably have seen some of their productions. David Mitchell’s Soap Box – for instance.
Wil started ChannelFlip with Justin Gaynor in 2007 to create ad-funded online video content. After initially starting with original shows using little-known presenters with little success; they decided to get the ‘big names’ involved.
“When you are dealing with traditional broadcast television, there are essentially five channels that consumers will view. So each channel will have roughly 20% of the audience share. With the Internet these ‘channels’ become infinite. So the influence of a celebrity and tapping into their fan-base amplifies the potential audience.”
But what is in it for the celebrities?
“They wanted freedom to do what they wanted – away from the commissioners of traditional platforms. Also they appreciated the importance of tapping into the online audience. For example, David Mitchell portrays his angry persona – made famous by various panel show rants – which is arguably more suitable for short form content and therefore the web.’
Online is suitable for testing emerging talent
Jon Davenport is the Head of Digital of Hat Trick productions. He had a slightly different take on the talent needed for online programming. He sees online as an opportunity to test out new talent – although he admits it is preferable if these talents already have a fan base online.
This is largely due to costs. Programming on a traditional broadcast platform costs roughly £10-12,000 a minute. This is reduced to approximately £1,000 with online.
One of the first digital projects was called Bryony Makes a Zombie Movie about YouTube user paperlilies who curates an online-collaborative effort to script, cast and film a movie. She gave herself 3 months to do it in.
Although this was a fresh idea with a budding and unique talent, there were drawbacks.
“Bryony decided that in the short time that she had given herself to complete the movie that she would go on holiday for a month to Toronto. I almost wished she had an agent, especially when she hadn’t necessarily set out to do a professional project and perhaps didn’t get the significance of it.”
Hat Trick has also created content with popular YouTube users Charlie McDonnell, Jimmy Hill, Alex Day and Johnny Haggart. Including ChartJackers which challenged them to create a single for Children in Need using ideas from their online communities.
“When you have online talent with x,000 subscribers you know that a large chunk of that base will view content with them in. If you combine several popular accounts the viewership will be even larger.’
Celebrity is not necessarily the key to high viewing figures.
Martin Trickey is the Head of Cross Platform Production at the BBC but he previously worked as a commissioning executive at BBC Comedy.
“The majority of popular online content is comedy, especially in short-form. It’s easily consumed, for example to pass time whilst commuting. If you see something you like which makes you laugh you are very likely to pass it on to a friend.”
A notorious online BBC Comedy commission is ‘Misery Bear’, featuring a teddy bear as he experiences depressing situations. The most popular of which is “Misery Bear Goes to Work”
“What works about it is that it’s universal, not only the situation which we can all sympathise with but the fact that there is no language. He [Misery Bear] is big in Brazil, he’s been on Spanish TV!”
“Misery Bear even did a video with Kate Moss. We thought, ‘Wow! Kate Moss. It’s bound to get millions of hits.’ But it still didn’t get near as much as ‘Misery Bear Goes to Work’. Which just shows you that celebrity isn’t everything.’