Written by TV

Some Recent TV Thoughts

Sorry, this is going to be a bit of a disparate entry about all things television.
ITV
As most people have noticed – well most people in the UK – ITV has rebranded, and no longer do we have ITV1. Instead, ITV has returned. It’s got a whole new curvy logo, and to be honest it looks absolutely fine to me. It was probably time for a refresh and it looks good.
There are a few things that have come as part of this, or that they’ve not done, which do upset me a bit.
– The introduction of a DOG. That is, a logo in the top left hand corner to remind dim viewers that they’re watching ITV. If they weren’t already doing it, most broadcasters introduced these with the HD versions of their channels. Now ITV has one.
Interestingly, BBC One HD dropped theirs just before the Olympics last year, and it has remained dropped. Look I know it’s small, discrete and doesn’t jump around or animate. But it’s there, and it looks cheap. There’s no reason for them at all.
Still, it could be worse, Channel 4’s HD DOG is atrocious during the current Utopia. This excellent new series has been shot in a wider scope than usual 16:9 meaning there are black bars top and bottom of the screen. The DOG sits right in the black bar at the top being incredibly distracting for this otherwise beautifully shot series. It’s a bit like going to the cinema and seeing a big stain on the screen that shows through in every scene. You’d complain to the manager about it.
– ITV seems to still be insisting that producers use a standard “ITV font” for all their closing credits. I realise that TV broadcasters only want closing credits that last less than 20 seconds, and invariably shrink them into the corner of the screen in case we should wander onto another channel. But do they have to all look the same? It’s nice that programme creators are able be creative with their credits, and choose different fonts and backgrounds. It makes them look more like individually crafted programmes and not just from the same factory.
– The new ITV logo seems at odds with the old ITV font. This is clearest in football where they have an ITV Sport logo with the score and clock in the corner of the screen the curtly ITV alongside the old fonted “Sport” just don’t work together. I think ITV Sport needs a new logo.
– “Funny” sponsor bumpers. To be fair, this isn’t limited to ITV. But there is nothing worse than a supposedly humorous break-bumper when a serious drama is playing. It just doesn’t work. And it makes the sponsor look amateurish. Yes, Sky Broadband ads – I’m looking at you. When that deal first started it was clear that nobody had any creative ready, so a simple text caption came up. Now we get a handful of mock police ads that just annoy you. Look, if you’re sponsoring a drama that has three internal breaks, that means you need eight executions of varying length to place around the programme. Assuming viewers are going to watch multiple episodes of a show, that means a lot of “exposure” to your break bumpers. Try to do something good with them. Blackberry might not make a lot of changes to its creative on Sky Atlantic, but at least they inoffensive and not trying desperately to be funny. Of course the time when this really comes into play is around major football tournaments when you simply can’t have enough different pieces of creative.
Look – I’m not a big ITV watcher. Currently I’m watching Lewis, Mr Selfridge and football when it’s on. But with a few tweaks it could all be so much better.
Sky Go
Elsewhere, I’m really not at all sure about Sky’s new Sky Go Extra offering. Sky Go has slowly rolled out across various devices and operating systems and been pretty decent when it’s worked. I’m still not quite clear why the selection of Android devices is so small, but both my phone and tablet are now on the list, so I can’t complain too much.
Sky used to do decent business with Sky Multiroom, and I suspect that tablet and laptop viewing has killed some of that business as parents palm the kids off with an iPad so they can entertain them with the Disney Channel while they watch Super Sunday. It’s cheaper than getting a whole new box with Multiroom.
Sky Go lets you register two devices to it, and while this seems quite generous, you can quickly use up your quota with laptops, mobiles, tablets and Xboxes.
The new Sky Go Extra costs another fiver a month and lets you up your device quota to four and download various films and TV series rather than just stream them live or on demand. That’s obviously really useful for when you’re on the move or don’t have a solid internet connection.
But is it worth five pounds a month to me? Probably not. And I’m slightly miffed that this functionality has been available on Windows laptops for a few years as part of the regular Sky Go. It’s now being taken away unless you pay for it. I must admit that I only ever used it when looking after some kids and keeping them quiet by downloading animated films which I then played back on TV courtesy of an HDMI cable. But it was nice to have, and I no longer have it unless I pay up. Which I won’t.
Sky Thursdays
The other interesting thing Sky is doing is “Sky Thursdays” on Pick TV. Pick TV is a kind of unloved channel that sits on Freeview and other platforms. Sky really only have it having been one of the original partners in Freeview, rightly thinking it might be a way into the great swathe on non-subscribers.
Sky’s backed off Freeview to an extent – removing Sky Sports News. But they hang onto Pick TV (formerly Sky 3) and are able to use it to cross promote premium Sky programmes while serving up somewhat tepid programmes that have previously been aired to death on premium Sky TV channels.
For the next three months Sky is going to use it to promote the range of Sky original and acquired programming that it’s offering. In the first week, for example, they showed the excellent Bradley Wiggins documentary A Year in Yellow, and the first episode of Game of Thrones. In the past Sky’s done free weekends with this sort of thing, but they’re making a real go of these “Sky Thursdays.” But looking ahead in the schedules, it’s clear that Sky is only showing the first three episodes of Game of Thrones. They want to get you hooked so that… Well they hope you subscribe. I suspect that you will or won’t buy the DVD or download the programmes from iTunes or wherever. After Game of Thrones, they repeat the process with The Borgias and so on.
Look, Sky is now making lots of original programming, and they outbid most other broadcasters for the best of the imports. But I’m not certain that this will get people watching. For the most part Pick TV is so dismal, it’s not worth going anywhere near. Still, they need to replace their subscribers who churn.
David Attenborugh
Is David Attenborough spreading himself a bit thin right now?
Not content with this year’s big budget Africa – reason enough on its own to get an HD TV – he’s also to be found in several other places across the dial. Over on Sky One he fronts their 3D nature programmes – notably Galapagos which has only just finished its initial airings in tandem with Africa on the BBC. And this week I learn that Eden – the channel that’s basically built on reruns of Attenborough’s BBC nature documentaries – is has original programming in the form of Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities.
Now I realise that aside from some helicopter shots at the beginning of these series, most of them are really just narrated by Attenborough right at the end. If there’s one thing that those “making of” segments at the end of the BBC series has shown us, it’s that the programmes are made up of pre-planned sequences. But you have to ask how expensive his crack habit must be to need to be involved in so many series simultaneously? After all, the man is 86, and I assume he’s paid off his mortgage.
BBC Two
Life on Earth repeats are one of the things that can be found on the new look BBC Two. It pretty much had to give up on daytime programming as part of Delivering Quality First. And for better or worse (worse) kids TV has departed completely to the backwater of CBBC and CBeebies, leaving an awful lot of space to fill up.
Since the testcard girl seems out of favour, and “Pages from Ceefax” has departed along with analogue TV, that means repeats, repeats and more repeats. Now this can be good, or it can be bad. There are murmurs that should the right deals be done with Equity, we’ll see some classic drama showing up. However, for now, it’s factual repeats.
These repeats seem to fall into several categories:
– “Classic repeats” of the Life on Earth variety
– Food show repeats: the sort of thing that otherwise gets chopped up into bits on Saturday Kitchen
– BBC daytime repeats: another chance to watch Homes Under the Hammer!
– Primetime factual repeats: The One Show and Countryfile
– BBC News programmes: more opportunities to watch Click
Early on weekend mornings, there are some old films to be found. And it’s a shame that space can’t be found for a few more. I’m talking about the films that nobody shows anymore – black and white ones that aren’t “one of the usual suspects.”
I can’t believe that they would cost that much. For instance, am I right in thinking that the BBC has the entire RKO film library available for TV broadcast in perpetuity?
Despite UK television having quite a lot film channels, most of them are wafer thin in choice when it comes to airing films from outside the last twenty or so years. Sky Movies Classics is too predictable. Film Four has improved a little of late, but is still a bit too safe in daytime when audiences are surely negligible. TCM really is terribly disappointing given the rights owned by Turner. A lot of the time it’s showing old TV shows rather than films at all. And most of the rest aren’t worth bothering with at all (Sony – I assume you do own the old Columbia catalogue? How about raiding it once in a while?).
Anyway, I’m veering wildly off course now, so I’ll stop. But if you’ve not seen it, it really is worth catching up with Utopia on Channel 4 right now. It’s my favourite programme at the moment. It’s even with putting up with the vast number of ads on 4OD to watch it!