RTS London Student Television Awards

Last Friday I was one of the judges at the Royal Television Society (RTS) London Student Television Awards.

The nine strong jury was an interesting assortment of people from many areas of the TV industry. Amongst others, there was a live TV producer, an ex-Channel 4 commissioning editor, a senior producer of children’s programming and a former head of education and health at the ITC/IBA.

The entries came from five of London’s media colleges and were categorised in to animation, factual & non-factual. The highest number of entries came from Ravensbourne.

Animation I thought that all of the entries in the category were very well drawn, using sophisticated animation techniques to create thought provoking pieces with strong uses of music. Watching it is the easy part, there’s a huge amount of work involved in their production.

Factual I felt that this was the strongest category, with a very professional finish on some of the pieces.

Most pieces had clearly received a lot of pre-production and a good depth of research that showed in the depth of information of the best pieces.

There’s a lot of concern in TV generally about “young people”, currently those under 35, not watching news and many, particularly at the 18 to 25 end of the scale are not really watching TV at all.

One piece, “Common day”, took an interesting approach of joining factual and fiction. A detailed, informative discussion about a photographic competition was joined to a fictional piece.

I felt this version didn’t quite gel but it’s interesting approach to TV for people who aren’t used to watching TV – putting across facts/education while entertaining. A good programming idea for the short attention span generation.

Non-factual This category was a good reminder of how hard it is to create good TV drama, as there are a large number of elements, which all need to be strong and in the correct balance. There were a couple of very good uses of lighting and one excellent set. The winners of the awards will be announced on Monday 24 February at the London Television Centre.

Sky, bye TiVo UK

David Galbraith reminded me that TiVo are decamping from the UK.

It’s a shame that TiVo got into a pickle here. They were brought over in a deal with Sky (part of News Corp.), which I’m sure looked great on the surface.

Around launch time I remember going to see _THE TiVo_ at the only place that had it, Dixons. Swallowing my pride I went into (gulp) Dixons, to find it sitting on a shelf near the back of the store.

The demonstration video that ran on it was quite informative, but my boat wasn’t sufficiently floated to make me reach for £400 to give them. It’s appeal is understood when you use it.

I didn’t really remember much advertising for it but there was quite a lot of press. Then nothing, followed by … more nothing. Unsurprisingly only 32,000 were sold. I found mine about 18 months ago on FreeServe’s e-marketplace-thing selling for £150. Now I can’t believe I lived without it.

It’s interesting how TiVo alters your perceptions, for example, I’ve given up archiving stuff off to VHS, as its hard to take its bulky, dated format seriously – Do I really want these big boxes cluttering up my house?

I digress.

It’s been alleged, how can I put this delicately, that Sky made it uneconomically viable for TiVo to have a base in the UK for their hardware distribution in the UK.

I was speaking to someone who worked at Sky with the two people that did the TiVo deal. They were told to go and do the deal on specific terms, and not to return until they had. Sounds like Sky saw the opportunity … and the threat – and decided to control it.

From the TiVo side, the deal confuses me. I don’t know if TiVo were seduced by the fact the Sky (Almighty) were interested in their product and all they were blinded by a partner with huge, growing number of subscribers in the UK.

Whatever the deal was, it wasn’t mutually exclusive and appears to be lacking in proper Due Diligence. Sky still continue to developed PVR with NDS, the company they partially floated to the public in 1999. They also did a deal with the UK’s Pace, to supply their public PVR offering, Sky+. In true Sky style, they persuaded Pace to supply the boxes to them at under manufacturing cost.

Sky, of course supplied something as part of the TiVo deal. When you call TiVo support in the UK, you get through to Sky’s Scottish call centre and your Monthly direct debit is labelled Sky – which is pretty galling.

I think TiVo have done the right thing. As long as support continues to be provided at the generally very good level it is now and the EPG continues to function, who cares if they don’t have personnel here?

Strangely they will continue to have a presence here. I heard they took a long lease on their UK offices – which they’re trying to be sublet as I type.

The lesson TiVo learnt is clear. If you’re going to go into business with Sky, you’d better do it with your eyes wide open.

Low down in the piece it says that marketing is the biggest obstacle to PVR adoption, which I agree with and understand . Here’s my suggestion, give people a PVR on free trial for a couple of weeks, you’d have trouble getting it back from them and leave it a month, you’ll have no chance.

Latest Oftel broadband research

The Register covers a story based on the most recent Oftel (UK teleco regulator) research. Now eight in ten UK Internet users know about broadband, which is encouraging as last year it was about 50/50.

From the Oftel report, we see that about two-thirds of all SMEs have Internet access, but only 13% use DSL/cable and around 4% are on leased lines.

BUT here’s the scary piece – about 1/4 of them currently use ISDN. BT has made very little effort, if any, to convert ISDN users to DSL – the reason is simple – they would lose income – doesn’t matter that it’s better for customer.

This is a typical BT – backward looking, squeeze every last penny you can from the customer, then when you absolutely have to, begrudgingly upgrade them. Deutsche Telekoms approach has always been more modern, when the advantages of ISDN over phone lines became obvious, they installed ISDN _instead_ of analogue phone lines, for no extra charge. They have also really pushed ADSL, by making it really attractive to upgrade.

I called BT “sales” to try and get details of the costings and was shocked to find that they flatly refused to give me _any_ information without my phone number – all I wanted was a price. I think an attitude like this says it all – the customers needs and interests are secondary to BT’s – one of the reasons that the number of UK broadband users is so pitiful.