Taskmaster returned to Channel 4 this week, with an all-new line-up of contestants. Having got drenched in rain on my way home, I was ready for some stupid challenges performed by comedians.
But when I turned on, I was treated to the above image.
In the TV world a “Digital On-Screen Graphic”, or DOG, is essentially a watermark. It appears on top of whatever is playing underneath it. Commonly they’re used for channel logos. I’ve long hated them.
In an entirely digital broadcast world, they’re redundant because our TVs can tell us automatically what channel we’re watching. But branding “experts” clearly believe otherwise, and they’re common across most channels these days.
Channel 4 permanently has a “4” logo in the top right corner, but they seem to be very keen to alert us to the new series of The Great British Bake-Off and so they’ve been adding a logo “reminding” us about it on some of their biggest shows.
It’s not there all the time. There’s a Sarah Millican stand-up special airing as I type this, and she doesn’t get the treatment. But Taskmaster gets the treatment.
And a quick search online shows that last night Chris Packham’s heartfelt documentary on climate change activism, Is It Time to Break the Law? also suffered the Bake-Off DOG.
I can’t tell you how infuriating I find them. It’s just on-screen clutter like the very worst news channels you’ve ever seen. They’re just distracting. Am I supposed to be watching the programme, or constantly reminding myself that your cooking show starts next week.
It’s not as though there aren’t ample ways to promote a big new show for your channel. You can run trails during the ad-breaks; you can have your channel announcer remind viewers at the end of the programme over the closing credits; you can shrink those credits and run a promo there.
And here’s the thing. It’s only linear viewers who get to experience this on-screen mess. Download or stream the on-demand version and you don’t get the DOG. That’s probably because if they “burnt” in the message on their on-demand platforms, the message would quickly become out of date.
But it means that linear viewers are treated as second-class citizens compared with on-demand ones.
Look – I know that in some other countries, this is probably the least bad thing broadcasters do, but that’s no excuse. Look at the best-in-class streamers. Does Netflix run a logo in the corner all the way through their shows? They seem more interested in giving as 4K HDR pictures and not messing up viewers’ experiences. If I happen to stream Black Mirror right now, what I don’t get is an on-screen DOG reminding me that the final seasons of Sex Education is now streaming. Netflix is perfectly capable of using the rest of its real estate to alert me to that.
Similarly, I don’t get a Disney DOG (would that be Pluto?) in the corner of the screen while I’m watching the latest Marvel movie (trick question – I’ve not been to a Marvel movie for a while).
The point stands.
Look, I know if I dive further into the EPG of my set-top box, I’ll find all kinds of channels that are hyping up the one new show they’ve got coming out this week. But Channel 4 copying those channels also makes them look like those cheap and cheerful channels, suggesting to viewers that most of their output is made up of repeats, and this is the one new show they’ve got this week.
Anyway, I’ll be voting with my remote.