I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it. I’m about to use my remote control and I think I’ll like it

It’s not like me to resort to cheesey pop lyrics – though I do confess to an excess of breathless enthusiasm sometimes – but this time I want you to get excited with me about things that really matter: TV programmes.

We are no slouches at Thinkbox when it comes to championing new TV technologies; you might have already seen our new Tellyporting research into TV’s future (if not you can see the re-run on 2 Feb). But all the iPads, and 3D screens and smartphones and companion social media sites would be dreary devices indeed without the life-force and well-spring of great TV content.

Given the near 10% decline in TV ad revenue in 2009, it’s nothing short of miraculous that viewing hasn’t suffered in 2010, with average viewing likely to tip over the 4 hour mark.

Programmes like Downton Abbey (back again this year), This Is England ’86, An Idiot Abroad, Any Human Heart, Take Me Out, One Born Every Minute, Flying Monsters, World Cup coverage, 30Rock, Corrie Live at 50, The Walking Dead, Four Weddings, Australian Masterchef, Dispatches, the Election debates, Million Pound Drop, The Book Show etc. etc., not forgetting the juggernauts of X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity, kept me and millions of others entranced.

So, after a bumper TV revenue year in 2010, up about 14%, and with brilliant programming teams in place across tellyland, what new treasures can we all look forward to in 2011? Further episodes of Downton Abbey aside (what will Lady Mary do about Mr Crawley?) other 2011 ITV dramas include Kidnap & Ransom (with Trevor Eve), Monroe (a medical series with James Nesbitt and Sarah Parish), Vera (Brenda Blethyn as a detective), and two forays into the supernatural – Eternal Law (about two angels on earth) and Marchlands (about a house across the decades containing the spirit of a young girl) – look very tasty.

Highly anticipated new satirical comedy on Channel 4 starts with 10 O’Clock Live this Thursday. Not sure how I will cope with having two unlikely heartthrobs of mine in one show: Charlie Brooker AND David Mitchell. With this, you are spoiling us Channel 4. And in spring, the first series of Campus finally launches, from the team who brought you the best comedy series ever made, Green Wing.

And commercial TV is also delighted to welcome brilliant on-screen talent normally associated with the BBC, from David Attenborough on Sky One to Mary Portas as a Secret Shopper on Channel 4. The launch of Sky Atlantic on February 1st, Sky’s joint venture with HBO will also bring all those classy series within the grasp of advertisers. If you’re not excited about being able to puts ads in Mad Men breaks, then there’s just no pleasing some people, and maybe you should think about another career.

These are just a tiny fraction of the pleasures to come. These, plus lots of new 3D programmes and the new opportunity of product placement means your focus for 2011 should be as squarely on the TV ‘software’ as the TV hardware.

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  • Norman Ingram

    Better quality programs used to be the way commercial television commanded premium air time rates as the viewing figures were undoubtedly going to be much higher.
    However, technology has moved on, together with changing viewing habits. I am not untypical of my generation, so sky+ what I want to watch when I have the time. I can then skip straight past the adverts to continue watching the program. Who wants to be bombarded every 5 minutes with that fat obnoxious insurance opera singer?
    The challange of the advertisers is to coordinate a multi channel approach in the hope of reaching out to people like me. I think that is why they are excited about product placement within the programs themselves. Putting ads into commercial breaks as a core focus is simply not going to work any more.


    You’re right about one thing, Norman. Commercial TV doesn’t reach everyone and never has done; there are 4% of people a month who don’t watch any. And there are another few % like you who watch but whom ad breaks don’t reach (although how exactly do you know about the ‘fat opera singer’ if you don’t watch the ads?).

    But you’re quite wrong to think that ad-skipping is a big problem and that product placement’s main appeal is to plug a spot ad gap.

    Here are the facts: on average only 8% of what we watch is time-shifted, so only 8% of ads are even capable of being skipped. Naturally, that number is higher in homes with a DTR and highest of all in Sky+ homes. But even then it’s only 14% of people’s viewing. I should also state very clearly that ads must be viewed at normal speed to be counted by BARB, hence any fast-forwarded ads are FREE, though they really do have a value as people pay very close attention to the screen.

    Putting ads in TV commercial breaks is working better than ever, in part because the internet enables instant response to them. Just ask all the online brands who spend 70% oftheir ad money on TV whether TV works or not. Ask John Lewis, and Hovis and Audi and the many other brands who understand the contribution that TV makes to their profit.

    Product placement is a small but interesting new TV opportunity that works differently from spot advertising for brands and we look forward to understanding more about it and researching its effectiveness. We think that it will probably have the biggest effect in promoting advertiser-funded programmes within which a brand could have an appropriate presence. But yes, like TV sponsorship, it also delivers the added benefit of reaching ad-avoiders like you!

  • alastair herbert

    Swearing in brand language is very rare. At Linguabrand we do brand language analytics, including tone of voice, and we dropped an measure called ‘eccentricity’. This included use of exclamation marks (hello Virgin), fillers (er, um) and swearing. We tracked it against over 200 brands. It popped up very occaisionally in B2B. So ad agencies would ‘cut the crap’ or offer ‘no bullshit’. But it was so unusual that when it appeared it caused big spikes on our measurements and we dropped the idea.

    So this is a genuinely extraordinary event, especially in a consumer context.

  • Richard J D’Souza

    I think that you might put some people off with the swearing.