August, 2006

Footballers Wives Not Yet in US

If you read the trade press, or follow Mediaguardian, you can’t help to have noticed all the reports about how Footballers’ Wives, the trashy ITV series, is being remade in US by ABC.
On the surface, this seems like another successful deal for a British indie. But this is Shed Productions, who’ve seen Footballers’ Wives finish its run in the UK now, with the threatened end of their other banker Bad Girls. They need a good result at the moment.
What’s actually happened is that a script has been commissioned in the usual pilots process that begins at this time of the year. If you listened to Paul Jackson’s series LA Stories earlier this year on Radio 4, you’ll recall that each network buys roughly 60 scripts a year of which 8 will make it to the pilot stage, and 3 will be commissioned. So at the moment, that gives Footballers Wives a 5% chance of appearing. We can be generous and double that because series with track records abroad have a greater chance of appearing. But that’s still only a 1 in 10 shot. Not quite the story it once was.

User Generated Ads

I was on the tube this morning, and after avoiding a man who threw up in the middle of the carriage, I ended up standing near a guy who was refining a paper copy of his Powerpoint presentation. Closer examination, as I pretended to read my book, revealed that he was giving an i-Level presentation – i-Level is a digital media agency.
Most amusingly, his final slide (as far as I could tell) was all about User Generated Advertising!
Do we really have to do everything ourselves online now? It’s all far too much like hard work.

New York Times Article Unavailable in the UK

If you read a story like this one on Mediaguardian explaining how the New York Times has prevented internet users in the UK from reading a specific article it has published online, what’s your natural inclination?
To find a way to read the article of course!
According to the Mediaguardian piece and another piece on the New York Times website, they even stopped physical distribution in the UK of that edition. Whether international travellers were relieved of their newspapers at the same time as their beverages when boarding the flight, is not reported.
So what does a curious Brit do when faced with the prospect that US readers are learning more about the case than we are? He gets straight on the net, that’s what.
Google News reveals the existance of the article, but clicking the link gets me:
This Article Is Unavailable
On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial.

Of course that’s not hard to stop. There are plenty of anonymizers scattered around the web, and within seconds, I’m through to the page.
Except that I need to log on to the New York Times website to gain access to the article. So I use my regular username and password – the one that’s registered to me as living in the UK. Seconds later, I have the full text.
No doubt as we speak, people are emailing the text of the article back and forth faster than a Citigroup intern’s party invite. It all reminds me when Peter Wright’s book Spycatcher was published around the world, but not in Britain.
There are good legal reasons why the article shouldn’t be published in the UK, and I fully understand that, but somehow we have to confront these difficulties. In any case, rather than concentrate on the substance of the article (I’m not keen to be locked up for contempt of court), the bigger question in my mind is why British sources are feeding key information to US publications? Particularly as it’s precisely that information that could possibly cause a mistrial in the UK.
I realise that a certain amount of off-the-record briefing goes on ahead of big cases so that when a verdict is announced TV companies and newspapers have fully researched reports ready to go, but we’re months, if not years away from a trial at the moment.

Idea for Amazon Feature

Unless I’m missing something, there’s a feature that I’d love Amazon to add to its service. I’d like them to let me know when one of my favourite authors has a new book upcoming.
For example, I like John Le Carré’s novels, but if it wasn’t for the fact that I otherwise knew to look (I read about it in a newspaper), it’d have taken me by surprise that he has a new novel coming out in a few weeks’ time. (Incidentally, BBC Four has a programme on Le Carré later this week)
Why can’t I register Le Carré as favourite author, and Amazon just email when he has a new book out? I realise that sometimes these books are likely to be just older titles republished, but that’s better than not knowing about a new title surely? The same could be done for musicians too.
Maybe this is some hidden (or not so hidden) feature of Amazon I’ve just missed up until now, and if so, someone please do tell me.

Love Island Washed Away

A paltry 3.8m viewers for the final should ensure that ITV never again brings back [Celebrity] Love Island.
I do look forward to reading Executive Producer Natalka Znak’s thoughts on the series’ end on the Mediaguardian blog.
Previous choice titbits from her contributions have included:
“We have a great show that is funny and full of real drama.”
“All sorts of random people are emailing me from Britain telling me they’re loving the show and don’t understand the ratings.”
“…we’ve… watched the ratings steadily rise”
What really annoys me is that I quite like the odd Bounty bar now and again, but I feel duty bound not to buy them now because of their sponsorship of this piece of garbage.
It’s good to know that if ITV had just repeated a Bond film for the Bank Holiday, they’d have got much stronger ratings.

Ad Funded Free Downloads?

So how is SprialFrog going to make money exactly? According to a piece in today’s FT (read it quick before it costs you), Universal Music is backing the service which will offer free downloads based on users experiencing ads. Unless we’re going to have to watch a whole series of ads, I can’t see how the books will be balanced.
I assume the resulting music will be DRM’d which means they must be Windows Media files (shhh). The service doesn’t start until December so no doubt all will be revealed then.

“Ultimate Play The Game” T-Shirts

Inspired by Makezine, I tried out my new Speedart Fabric Screen Printing kit this weekend to make an “Ultimate Play The Game” T-shirt. I’m sure Rare will be delighted (You do remember Ultimate Play the Game don’t you? They made some groundbreaking games for the ZX Spectrum like Jetpac, Atic Atac and Sabre Wulf in the early eighties before becoming Rare). It took longer than I thought, with a three stage process all requiring long drying periods to just make the screen.
The cap in the picture is a vintage original one picked up at some long-forgotten ZX Microfair at Ally Pally or somewhere, and was used to supply the logo.
Overall I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. The red version is my favourite although I had to print onto it twice and not getting the two versions quite in line has left it with a slight blurring effect. The t-shirts were 3 for £12 at Burtons.

All Star Cup

The All Star Cup on ITV, and more particularly ITV2, offers a somewhat better streaming service than Time Team. But then it’s real golf coverage – albeit that some of it is decidedly average. The US team seems a little short of star names, although any actor in television worth his or her salt will be busy filming just now. But they do seem to have roped in all the GMTV male presenting team. And Ronnie Corbett on commentary duty seems to consist of “Yes….” Most revealing was a bit when the microphone had not been fully faded and we heard him say “I do find it hard to know when to say something.”