Written by TV

Awards Shows Need to be Live in 2013

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As I type, guests for the BAFTA Film Awards are beginning to arrive at a soggy Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Are they getting to the venue super early, since the awards themselves aren’t on for ages? No, it’s because we get recorded highlights of the BAFTA Film Awards on BBC One from 9pm.
The actual awards start at 7pm in Royal Opera House, but the BBC goes into careful 2 hour “tape” delay before presenting the public with a filtered view.
This is nothing new, and it’s been done for years.
But in 2013, and frankly for the last five or more years, we’ve had social media. And that means you can’t embargo the results. When the award is announced in the ROH, it’s on Twitter, Facebook and the web. And that means by the time 9pm comes around, the vast majority of awards have been made.
Even the red carpet coverage starts on BBC Three at 7.30pm – half an hour after everyone’s sat down in the ROH. Meanwhile US entertainment channel E! did its coverage a couple of hours earlier, actually “live” from the red carpet.
Someone told me a stat recently claiming that the average smartphone owner checks their phone 180 times a day. I may have mis-remembered the number. And that sounds a little unlikely anyway. But what is clear is that people do check their phones a lot. They’re on Twitter. They’re browsing Facebook.
Amusingly, BAFTA has put up a guide about how not have the results spoiled.
The genie is out of the bag. You can’t help but have your viewing of these awards “spoiled”. Largely they’re about not going on their Tumblr site, and being careful about opening images posted by the offical @BAFTA Twitter account. Of course you probably follow a few more accounts aside from BAFTA’s own. And if you’re interested in entertainment news, you might well follow some news outlets that specialise in that news. Indeed I’d be amazed if @BBCBreaking or @SkyNewsBreak don’t Tweet the results.
So why does the BBC and BAFTA persist in presenting us with recorded highlights? I suggest the following reasons:

  • Old world thinking – We’ve always done it this way? Why change things? Well social media has arrived, and live is all. It doesn’t work. The TV broadcast becomes “spoiled” unless you avoid the internet. And today we’re all addicted to the internet with our phones and tablets adjacent to us as we sit in our lounges on our sofas.
  • Swearing – Well yes. This might be true. Except that the broadcast begins after the watershed. And all the people speaking are quite grown up. Pretty much everybody is getting on a plane after today to go to LA for the Oscars. And they manage not to swear there. Plus all those nice young pop stars manage to behave fairly well on the live Brits. So there’s no real excuse.
  • Editing out smaller awards – You know, all those short films, and awards to unimportant people like the writers. Of course, they do this at The Oscars too. But they just start the show a bit earlier before TV gets broadcasting live, and they present them then.
  • Guests want to get to their parties before 11pm – I kind of made that up, but I bet there’s an element of truth in it.

And it’s not even as though the edited result is technically that good. The last few years have been pretty poor at times with interference on the sound.
And in any case, they’re missing a trick not going live. You can get a bigger TV audience by making the whole thing live and encouraging engagement in social media. Having both journalists at the venue, and your friends and people you follow all talk about something at the same time makes it a bigger event. And in 2013, that means you get a bigger TV audience.
The image above is of Bob and Terry from the classic sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads. As Jem Stone reminded me, we’re nearly at the 40th anniversary of the classic episode No Hiding Place, when Bob and Terry spend the day trying to avoid finding out an England football score before highlights are shown later in the evening. Today, with football coverage, we find that whole idea feintly quaint. And yet’s that’s precisely what a viewer needs to do today if they don’t want to know the results.
The irony of all this is that I don’t even care that much. Awards ceremonies are dull. The speeches are duller. Most of the winners are “the usual suspects” with little out of the box thinking. And I’ve got three episodes of House of Cards to watch.
But if you’re going to bother broadcasting awards ceremonies like this in 2013, it’s do it live or don’t bother.
And yes, I did write basically the same thing last year.
[UPDATE] I just had a look at Twitter to see what people had been saying to the @BBCBreaking Twitter account that has happily been Tweeting some of the major winners this evening – as they occurred in the Royal Opera House, rather than as they appeared on screen a couple of hours later. The following – with names redacted are just a handful. Fun fact – @BBCBreaking has over 5m followers, and one would imagine quite a few of them were going to watch the BAFTAs on TV!
@BBCBreaking good luck explaining that cock up in the morning! ‘thanks’ morons!
Well done, @BBCBreaking thanks for ruining the BAFTAs for me with that huge spoiler!!!! Who thought it would be a good idea to tweet that?!
@BBCBreaking You could have waited until it had been shown on BBC1! *Turns off TV*
Thanks to @BBCBreaking for telling us all the winners of the BAFTAs before they are announces on the box
@BBCBreaking brilliant….thanks! Can you let me know who wins the cricket next please ’cause I’d hate to enjoy that as well!
Thanks @BBCBreaking not like I was watching for a reason! #spoilt #bafta
@BBCBreaking R.I.P
@BBCBreaking stop telling us before it’s televised!
Oh, I know that but why bother, so? Show it live or don’t bother. šŸ™‚ @BBCBreaking
@BBCBreaking well done BBC, good to see our money is being spent on complete incompetent baboons. #useless
@BBCBreaking well done beeb for ruining the show
@BBCBreaking spoilers! For God sake!
@BBCBreaking Spoiler alert or what!!!?
great-bad enough avoiding the celeb tweets..but come on #BBC it’s on your own bloody channel “@BBCBreaking: #Argo wins best film at #BAFTAs
Wonderfully splendid of @BBCBreaking to tweet that before they’ve broadcast it!! ****ing Idiots!!
@BBCBreaking I think you might of screwed up#BAFTA BALLSUP
@bbcbreaking defeats the whole purpose of televising it…
@BBCBreaking. thanks for ruining the baftas
Things I love: watching the BAFTAs, looking at Twitter and having @BBCBreaking ruin absolutely all of it. Joy.

(And the @EE account didn’t win many friends this evening either, particularly with its patronising default reply: “Sorry about that, – Superfast is in our nature! Normal, non-spoilery service will resume tomorrow.” Completely meaningless. This is the company that spent a fortune on adverts actually promoting the 9pm televising of the show on BBC One, only for their Twitter account people to ruin it should you be following them. Great way to run a sponsorship!)
What I notice is that BBC Entertainment and BBC News operate entirely independently of one another. The BBC News channel also broadcast live from the red carpet. But since they’re news, they did it live. I didn’t really watch either that or any of the BBC Three coverage, so I couldn’t say if it was the same or different. BBC News probably considers a result a result, and as such it should be immediately reported. Of course millions of viewers were looking forward to watching the show on TV. You kind of imagine that had a news bulletin been scheduled on BBC1 ten minutes before the start of the BAFTAs, they’d have revealed the results right then…
But I think I’ve made my point.
[UPDATE 2] And here’s why nothing will change next year: BBC1’s coverage of the 2013 Bafta film awards enjoyed its biggest audience for a decade on Sunday.
Of course, that doesn’t account for the fact that more people might have watched it if it were live. And that many of those who did watch it were annoyed that Twitter or Facebook had spoiled it for them.
And I’ve just seen this blog post from a couple of years ago written by Torin Douglas and detailing exactly the same thing. It seems not a great deal has changed – aside from @BBCBreaking joining in the spoiler fun.