This week, Steadfast TV’s Paul Crompton, delves into the black hole of audience ratings.
You’ll have seen those city workers on the train each morning with their blue suits and pink newspapers. They scour the FT to see if they’ve still got an office to go to. Has the gross domestic product of Portugal gone for another siesta? Has Sterling been sushi’d by the Yen? It’s the same for us TV lot, we’re obsessed with overnight figures too. The main difference is that when city workers screw up, the world caves in. When we screw up… it’s worse… AA Gill slags us off.
It’s said that television is democratic. The viewer votes every night with the remote control, singley affecting our careers as they flit from one channel to another. If your latest programme rates well it puts a spring in your step and gives you a strong bargaining tool for the next commission. The overnight ratings are TV currency.
Steadfast TV’s Paul Crompton tackles the changing formation of Sky’s brand and programming.
Other than the tag line, I always sensed there were other comparisons between Millwall and Sky. They’re both based in unfashionable parts of London. Each business has strong links to newspaper giants; Sky has Murdoch (huge globally) and Millwall has Rod Liddle (huge personality) and yet the most obvious, they both suffer class snobbery.
Like Sky, Millwall work hard at brand perception. When they recently offered a load of free tickets to primary schools in south east London, I took my 9 year old son and some of his mates to the New Den. It was hardly a grudge match, Millwall were against lowly Hartlepool who mustered around 80 fans and were hapless at football. However, the Millwall regulars generated enough anger to melt a satellite dish, even after they took the lead. I was in earshot of several blokes bellowing C-word rants every 20 seconds or so, for the entire 90 minutes. And this was in the “family stand”. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t unsafe, I’ll credit the Millwall stewards with that, but there was a frisson of 1980s menace in the air.
A few years ago I was at a party in Soho, hobnobbing with people like Carole Vorderman (she was popular then) and Ross Kemp (he was new) and that Beckham kiss-and-tell woman (remember her?). Earlier I’d been to the Ritz with Sir David Frost to talk about a sports debate show and he told me funny stories about Ali, Nixon and Monty Python. I was a commissioning editor and this wasn’t a bad day’s work for a Salford boy.
Fast forward to last summer and I’m in a pokey Cornish B&B with a broken shower and a room smelling of dead dog. I have no spare socks and I’m rushing out to get a shot on a DV camera from the side of some docks. It’s 6am and I’m lying on the cold, wet floor, my face scrunched into the camera eyepiece. How did it come to this? Where did it all go wrong? If only Vorderman can help me work it out?
It was great being a commissioning editor, I thought it was the best job in the world – meeting talented people and the feeling that you’re in a big supermarket of ideas. Being an an Exec at a small indie in many ways more rewarding because the pressures are different? They’re more real. Responsibilities such as development, securing access, managing a big team, hustling, begging, and running around sockless (BBC Four budgets!) all give the job an exciting edge.