So You Think You’re Funny?
It’s not a question for you, but the title of the prestigious annual stand-up comedy competition for new acts. I’m a big fan of stand-up and had the pleasure of some great contestants taking part in the competition last week at the Bethnal Green Backyard Comedy Club.
The big break
Speaking to a couple of the competitors it was striking by how easy it was to get started in comedy. But, as easy as it is to start, making a big break is notoriously difficult. One of the biggest challenges is getting noticed and building any sort of fan base.
An under-served genre
To me, stand-up is a massively underserved area in the TV industry. Broadcasters and SVoD channels could be doing so much more to help nurture the next generation of comedic talent.
The likes of Russell Howard’s Good News should be applauded for giving a platform to upcoming comedians – it was through his show that I discovered the brilliant John Robbins, and subsequently my now favourite podcast – the Ellis James and John Robbins Show on Radio X.
More needs to be done
It shouldn’t be a case of established comedians helping out their mates though. Broadcasters need to be doing more.
Netflix’s stand-up comedy is heavily skewed by big names, generally from America. It is also very difficult to separate the good from the bad. There doesn’t seem to be any editorial curation of the content. All of this combined makes discovering anything new and exciting, tedious and difficult.
The BBC has its Live At the Apollo series, which it uses to introduce audiences to new performers. It has a couple of other shows and also uses Radio 4 in particular to help with testing out new comics.
Issues with representation
But how representative of the world is the slate of comics the likes of the BBC uses? Its policy of ensuring the likes of Have I got News For You aren’t all male panels should say enough. There are plenty of brilliant female performers, but they don’t have the profile to get on the major shows. Same story for those of different classes, sexuality, politics and ethnicity.
It was heartening to hear of the recent launch of Next Up, a SVoD platform dedicated to providing a huge range of never before seen stand-up content from gigging comedians. It is a great new revenue stream for the performers, gives them the chance to start building and connecting with fans, and with this a reputation which makes people want to see them live.
Ideas like this are bringing the genre into the modern era. The major channels can do more, but it is exciting to see other players getting involved and helping to make people laugh.
By Xander Ross, Junior Account Manager at Franklin Rae
Being a sports fan is an expensive habit. Ticket prices for games are sky high – WRU tickets recently tipped the £100 mark for the first time in the organisation’s history. So, it’s not surprising most of us will prefer to tune in at home to indulge our habits. There has never been more choice for viewers and the amount of sport being broadcast is the best it’s ever been.
As a women in sport, I couldn’t be more excited to see how accessible hockey has become on TV in the past few years following Olympic success. Not to mention being able to watch the thrilling England Netball Commonwealth campaign from the comfort of iPlayer last month.
Sports broadcasting is a complicated landscape however. With streaming rights for certain leagues often split across multiple broadcasters – these days you need a Sky Sports subscription to watch the Premier League, BT Sport to watch the Aviva Premiership and Amazon Prime if you want to watch the NFL. And that’s not even taking some of the more obscure platforms into consideration. My Netball Live subscription is the best £13 investment I’ve made this year – and currently the only option in the UK for watching the professional Suncorp Super Netball from Australia.
‘Netflix for Sports’
There’s no one size fits all subscription package for the ultimate sport fan. Consumers have been crying out for a ‘Netflix for Sports’ for a long time, and there’s a very good reason it’s yet to materialise. Sport is a prolific business, and the cost for live streaming rights is at a premium. The Premier League is the biggest prize in British sport broadcasting, and Sky recently signed a £3.6bn deal to air the majority of the games for the next 3 seasons.
When you consider Netflix paid a record £100m in production costs for the first series of global drama The Crown – it puts the cost of multiple sport rights in context. Sky paid a golden sum for the Premier League, and it’s still not an exclusive deal.
That’s not to say sport isn’t attracting the big tech players. Amazon recently paid a reported $50million for the rights to stream 11 NFL games this season. A package the digital giant managed to win over rival Twitter. And niche markets such as esports have long been reaching their audiences through digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitch.
There are exciting ripples of movement over the pond towards a ‘Netflix for Sports’ format, from the likes of ESPN and CBS. I for one am interested to see how the pay-per-game format of Turner’s Bleacher Report Live will pay off, as it brings together a variety of sports under one model.
But much has to be said about the impact of multiple broadcasting packages from leagues in all this. Live TV broadcast, digital streaming rights, highlight packages, near-live broadcast and goal-clips for the same league are all being sold separately. As a result, there’s so much more content than ever before being auctioned to the highest bidder.
With Sky Sports and BT recently reaching a content-sharing agreement on the Premier League, there appears to be some level of consolidation of rights. So while we might not be ready for an all-encompassing ‘Netflix for Sport’ just yet – change may just be on the horizon.
By Abi Williams, Account Manager, Franklin Rae
Industry events are a great platform to raise your corporate profile among key audiences and tell your story in your own words. So, what does it take to get up on stage and be part of the conversation? Adam Webb, Senior Content Manager at IBC tells us what makes a great panel discussion.
Most of us have been there, at an event, watching a panel discussion, interview or keynote and just wishing it would end. But what makes a panel engaging, informative or entertaining? And what makes you regret the time and money you’ve invested to attend?
Turning failure on its head
A good panel shouldn’t be a glorified sales pitch – the audience can see straight through that and instantly disengages. In my experience, having also overseen the programme at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, delegates don’t want to sit through an hour of self-satisfied smugness where people just talk about their successes and achievements. Of course, the reason they’re on the panel is because they are a leader in their field and have achieved success, but it’s vital to drill down further into their story.
Each panel topic will come with a different set of questions. But for a TV show masterclass for example, it’s important to also delve into areas around failure; was there a moment they felt out of their depth? What would they have done differently? How do they deal with negative reviews? Exploring questions around overcoming failure provides a much more rewarding experience for anyone watching.
Keeping it diverse
At IBC, we critique every speaker to make sure they justify their place on a panel debate, masterclass or case study. Will they offer an opinion that hasn’t been heard before? Are they going to be open enough to offer real insight? It’s vital that anyone watching will leave feeling satisfied they’re getting ROI. We’re also keen to make sure the line-up is fresh, forward facing and diverse.
Rightly so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify male only panels, often those events that end up with 5 men on stage lead to an awkward apology from an embarrassed chair, which is met with a ripple of raised eyebrows from members of the audience. We’ve made it our mission to aim for a 50/50 male/female split this year. We’re currently on target with Lindsay Pattison, Chief Transformation Officer, GroupM and WPP Global, Jette Nygaard-Andersen, EVP, CEO of MTG International Entertainment and Lisa Tobin, Executive Producer, Audio at The New York Times, just some of the women joining a brilliant line-up.
Setting quotas is just part of the solution when aiming for more diversity on stage. If you’re the type of person that recoils in horror at the thought of getting up in front of an audience, you might be just the kind of person people would relish hearing from. For too long conferences and events have played it lazily safe by recruiting the same seasoned speakers. Go to any number of events on the same theme and you’re likely to see the same old faces on stage.
Getting involved in an event like IBC is a great way to speak directly to an audience, giving you the opportunity to tell your story in your own words or offer insight and knowledge in an area of expertise. The more people that put themselves up for these experiences and are brave enough to offer honest insight, the more diverse stories are heard from the widest possible pool of voices – and the less yawns from the audience.
The IBC Conference 2018 is taking place in Amsterdam, 13th – 17th September
Brand licensing often goes hand in hand with great entertainment IP. So, what do you need to know about this fast paced industry? Award winning licensing agent Caroline Mickler offers her expert insights in our latest ‘Connections’ blog.
The landscape in which kids entertainment and the parallel world of brand licensing sits is changing rapidly. The changes are not only happening where children are searching for and viewing content, but also in the way they look for merchandise associated with their favourite characters.
The retail space is also evolving at a rapid pace. While the traditional bricks and mortar stores are still dominant, online spend is ever increasing. Competing for space in the traditional retail store is becoming harder for small or new kids entertainment brands as shelves are often dominated by large production companies’ merchandise. Online retail becomes an important player for the smaller companies to gain ‘space’ for consumers to find their brands.
As online spend grows, high street stores need to create a reason for people to bring their children into stores. Companies like The Entertainer and LEGO are good examples of how retailers are adapting to this by creating a sense of theatre. When you enter the Leicester Square LEGO store in London, it is not the boxes of the latest LEGO that draws you in, but rather the chance to take your photo in the life size LEGO underground carriage or play at the ‘Pick and Build’ wall. Major toy retailer, The Entertainer, regularly has toy demonstrations and character visits to their stores to keep customers coming back.
Keeping up with the trends
It is not only in-store theatre that is important, but also being quick enough to recognise the latest trend such as fidget spinners or slime. These can be successful married up with your IP. Understanding where kids are consuming content or finding the latest trends is now vital for the children’s licensing industry and moving on with these trends as quickly as the kids do is also a necessity.
While linear TV is still an important player in brand building and awareness for entertainment properties, the way the children are consuming these shows is moving more toward SVOD, and user generated content across a multitude of platforms. The rise of ‘kid influencers’ on YouTube creating ‘unboxing’ content of new crazes and toys is on the increase. Social platforms are not only generating the rise of the kid influencer but also the rise of user generated content. Children are able to snap, video and create their own content on platforms such as PopJam, SnapChat and Musical.ly, creating a whole wave of content that traditional kids entertainment properties are also now competing with for ‘eye balls’ and engagement.
One way retailers and the licensing industry have been able to become part of this fast-paced kids entertainment space is through personalisation. Examples include companies such as LEGO creating the in-store ‘Mosiac Maker’, or Evode group working with toy retailer, The Entertainer to create personalised branded products online and delivered to the store for collection. Online, the children’s digital brand, Bebods give kids the chance to create their own character and share their world via the PopJam platform.
The future is certainly up for grabs by the agile in the industry.
Caroline Mickler is an award winning licensing agent at Caroline Mickler Ltd
This month, we speak to veteran TV journalist Andy Fry ahead of MIPTV to hear what everyone’s talking about in the build up to market.
What are you writing about at the moment?
At the moment I’m mainly writing about subjects related to MIPTV in Cannes. But, being freelance means I have to spread my net quite widely so I’ve also been doing stuff in areas like travel, sponsorship and sports marketing. There’s much more of a sense these days that you need to be writing reports, moderating, consulting and so on to make a living.
What are the headlines everyone’s talking about at the moment?
The issue of female representation on screen is a big story right now. There’s lots of interesting looking dramas that have strong female characters, though still some work to be done with getting women into writing and directing roles. Drama, as always, is also a big talking point – especially with the launch of the new Cannes Series event which will showcase great non-English drama from around the world. Broadcast has also got me doing an interesting piece about entertainment programming based on a round table discussion – definitely a feeling there that drama is being paid too much attention by the trade media and critics.
What is your biggest frustration as a journalist?
The two extremes; 1) organisations that don’t engage at all because they don’t think they need the media. Generally in my experience that leads to problems for them in the long run. 2) Organisations that micromanage the process – questions up front, lots of PR execs involved, requests to see copy, questions about who else is being interviewed. It takes forever and makes you dread dealing with them again in future. But, don’t get me wrong good PRs are amazingly useful.
What are you watching at the moment?
Save Me on Sky, which is really good. I love Lennie James and hope he goes on to win some awards. I’m juggling it with Born To Kill (C4 drama last year) and just finished Peaky Blinders series 4, which was brilliantly back on form after a slightly wayward series 3. Jack Thorne’s Kiri was thought-provoking and for a lighter mood I am watching The Durrells with my wife, which immediately gets me looking at travel websites. I occasionally get sucked into First Dates by my wife and daughters. My son and I tore through the exceptional Silicon Valley and are now bonding over Mr Robot.