There’s a lot of ignorance both on television and around it. That’s why I’ve never watched an episode of Gogglebox (and almost certainly never will). But that’s not what I’m talking about.
It seems to me that as I live more and more of my TV life through a combination of PVR and On Demand playback, I’m becoming much less aware of what’s coming up – even though I’d be really interested in the programmes. Now behaviour may be atypical – news and sport being the only two things I usually watch live – but I think that this is still true even as a generalisation.
Two recent cases in point.
On Sunday night there’s a new three-part Simon Reeve programme – Sacred Rivers. The first episode is about The Nile. I only learnt about the series a few minutes before I started writing this piece. If I hadn’t seen a preview on the BBC’s intranet, I honestly wouldn’t have known it was coming up, even though I’m certain it has been heavily trailed.
Then on Tuesday, the new Brian Cox series starts – Human Universe. I’m 99.9% certain that this has been massively trailed – but I’ve seen none of them. Again, it was an internal communication that alerted me to it (And I also saw Cox himself, alongside, I think, Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, being “mobbed” in the building yesterday).
To be clear, these are both programmes that I certainly want to watch.
Now to be fair, I think I’d have spotted both of these when I made my weekly PVR selections from The Guardian’s Guide supplement on Saturday. And because I read a daily newspaper, I’d have got a second opportunity on the day of broadcast. I might even have spotted the programmes in the EPG. And even if I’d missed the transmission, I might have found out about the series after the event and caught up on iPlayer.
But I do think that all broadcasters are going to have to carry out cleverer marketing to alert viewers to upcoming shows. It always amazes me, if you visit a big city in the US, the extent to which outdoor advertising is used to promote upcoming TV series. Indeed, if your show doesn’t get that advertising, producers often hold it against the network if the show is subsequently cancelled.
What I don’t want to see is more intrusive in-show advertising. But one thing strikes me as interesting – I think the BBC has less of an opportunity for PVR watchers like me than the population as a whole. Because while I might fast-forward through ad-breaks, the sponsorship break-bumpers and the invariable trails either side of those, means that Sky Atlantic is able to do a much better job of alerting me to The Knick during the season ending episode of Ray Donovan, than the BBC can during Doctor Who.