In my view, mass audience television (or however it’s delivered) will survive – but only if the industry can produce content that a lot of people want to watch. Take the success of Deal Or No Deal on Channel 4 – which has attracted about 2 million extra viewers to its slot. Where have they come from? The answer is from multi-channel television. If Deal Or No Deal can do it, so can other programmes – but only through quality, innovation and that great elusive ‘word of mouth’.
Creativity is the key – and it’s something television is bad at. Deal Or No Deal has already spawned a number of imitations which will appear over the next 6 months or so. Yawn…
I don’t have the answers, but I’m prepared to go on the journey – or get on the bus rather than be left standing at the bus stop.
So I’m looking at interactivity – but not in a lazy ‘get the audience to vote for the ending’ sort of way. For me, interactivity and digital technology will allow us to cater to special interests – or rather allow the viewer to choose the bits they’re interested in. We’re already writing an interactive film for the BBC which lets the viewer follow the character/line of investigation of their choice – and, later, allows them to choose which perspective they want to watch an event from. So it’s not about voting, it’s about added value and the ability to access the story areas that attract you…
And where will that all lead? Haven’t got a clue. But it could be interesting.
We’re also pushing into drama/reality hybrids and, after weeks/months of groping around in the dark have come up with a format which ITV have got very excited about. And it works.
When it comes to funding models, I haven’t got the time to worry about all that. I just move forward in the hope that people will always want stories no matter how they are funded or delivered. Ditto with HD etc. It looks great, but won’t save a rubbish script.
Big, expensive pieces will need to be put together like a Hollywood movie (star actor, star writer etc) and will need co-production money. It’s a pain in the arse, but it’s the reality – and the rewards of success are still very considerable. The growth ‘internationally’ will be in formats – we’re currently developing versions of three Endemol shows from overseas.
So is there a future for mass audience drama? I reckon so. Especially as my PA has stopped watching Nip/Tuck because she’s ‘got no-one to discuss it with the next day’...
Paul Marquess is creator of the TV programmes Footballers’ Wives and Murder Investigation Team