Digital Technology and the Future of Television

Posted on 17 November 2010

Britain's "most influential television executive" talks on the future of TV in the digital age.

Peter Bazalgette has been described as the most influential TV producer in the UK, and for good reason. He almost single-handedly invented the idea of home and garden "make-over" shows; he pioneered the selling of game show formats abroad; and he was responsible for bringing Big Brother to the UK.

So it was fascinating to hear him talk about the problems faced by advertising funded channels in the digital age. Peter started by showing some clips of early ITV entertainment shows from the 1950's - Opportunity Knocks, a talent show; and Take Your Pick, a studio based game show. He compared these with a current episode of X-Factor. Surprisingly, all three got roughly the same audience figures - around 17 million. Of course, the two programmes from the 1950s were transmitted at a time when there were only two channels competing for that audience...

Peter's main point was that you can still make money by using the mass audience media (like ITV) to create brand awareness; then spin that off into the digital world. He used the example of Yeo Valley, a dairy products company, who bought the whole of the first ad break in the first episode of X-Factor. Within hours of the transmission, clips were al over YouTube; and it was the most trended subject on Twitter.

Peter also examples of formats that have been successful all over the world - including two that he had been involved with, Big Brother and Deal or No Deal.

During questions at the end, there was a wide range of topics. Peter found himself supporting the BBC licence fee, explaining why new technology is always good even if you have to learn to use 7 remote controls, and defending the entertainment value of history programmes on TV...