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BBC Three moving online is a massive audience gamble

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BBC3 EPG online

Not quite gone, not yet


By the time you read this, the television part of BBC 3 will be dead.

The reasons are well documented: the UK Government – which controls the BBC’s funding – has effectively cut the BBC’s budget by 25% over the last six years.

Imagine your income dropping by a quarter, what you would stop doing? Eating out? Buy fewer new clothes? Spend less on media?

The BBC is cutting right across the board. For instance, while the BBC 3 decision has been getting all the attention there are significant cuts to other youth services. Radio 1 live events coverage has been slashed by over 80%.

BBC 3’s TV stats are very good. It gets nearly a quarter of the UK 16-34 age group watching every week, for well over 2 hours. It has the 2nd highest audience appreciation rating, just behind BBC 4.  That is an enormous amount of attention that has just been abandoned.

BBC 3’s problem now is to remain discoverable by its audience, and that’s a huge, huge challenge.

With so much choice available to the target audience this is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem. We are decades into a multi-channel TV world but most people watch fewer than 17 channels regularly (US data).  Similarly the number of close friends you have in the real world is around 15.

BBC Brands in iPlayer

In a post-TV environment BBC 3 is planning its own smartphone application, separate from the main iPlayer one.  This is sensible, it needs a big bold front page and you can see above iPlayer has too many different brands to represent as it is.

However the human usage limits of TV channels also apply to apps.

You probably have dozens on your phone, but how many do you regularly use? Again, US data suggests only around 25, although the time you spend using them is increasing, but it’s nowhere near TV watching hours.

Our media usage is limited because there’s a limit to the amount of information your brain can process, and the number of hours in the day aren’t increasing.

Which is why I think losing the TV part of this brand is an enormous risk. The advantage of having the anchor of a TV channel is that it is still a useful way to stand out.  Even if you don’t watch it (although the stats say millions do) seeing it on the EPG, or encountering it during a channel flick reminds you that it exists.

By going online-only BBC 3 is competing with every other piece of content on the internet, and there’s a lot more internet than there is BBC 3.

I’m being picky here, but the recent name / logo change doesn’t help. When personal referral is so important, how do you expect people new to the brand to tell their friends, when the mark is unpronounceable?

Question: ‘Where did that come from?

Answer: ‘It’s on the line-line-exclamation-mark channel on YouTube’. Not helpful.

Getting your audience to remember you are there is most of the battle, and unfortunately, due to constant media noise, it’s a battle you can’t stop fighting lest something new comes along to distract your audience.

Getting someone to install an app on their phone is one thing. Getting them to remember to use it regularly is quite another.

Our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to new things and the brain rewards us with feel-good chemicals. To make this worse, we also suffer from recency bias: the brain puts more importance on new things when making decisions.

For marketing budgets, its expensive to acquire a new customer and you have to keep spending to retain them. I predict BBC 3 is going to have to spend far more on external advertising than it thinks it does if it’s going to keep its audience share the way it is.

Unfortunately that is more money not being spent on programmes, precisely the opposite of what the corporation wants.



Written by Robert

16 February, 2016 at 1:02 am

No more NBC Nightly News podcasts. The bigger loser? NBC News.

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NBC NIghtly News podcast in iTunes

Soon to be available nightly, zero days a week

The flexibility of being able to download audio and video programmes to my mobile devices is one of the things that’s revolutionised by media consumption in the last decade. I have a 64GB ipod which is pretty much dedicated to podcasts, and it’s usually complaining that I’m about to run out of space.

I’m a massive consumer of documentary and current affairs, but I watch very little on-the-day TV news. And thanks to NBC’s decision to kill the podcast feed of Nightly News, I’ll now be watching even less.

I’ve been downloading NBC Nightly News pretty much every day for the last couple of years. It’s a great contrast to UK daily news programmes. I enjoy the different presentational style, I enjoy the different editorial decisions. But I also enjoy the very traditional collection of ‘stuff that happened today’ packaged into one simple bulletin.

NBC Nightly News discontinued

There’s a helpful announcement pointing me in the direction of other ways to watch, via the dedicated app, or on the web, but here’s why the other options don’t work for me:

Both the app and website options need a live internet connection.  I don’t always have one. The fantastic thing about a podcast or download is that it works wherever you are, even when your connection is patchy. I’m almost always enroute somewhere when I’m watching, hence my internet is always patchy.

Neither the app or wesbite options allow me to watch at anything other than real-time. I have something like 35 programmes on my device and in order to fit everything in, I almost always play things back at a faster speed.

This may seem extremely geeky (and I admit it probably is) but I often listen or watch up to 5 hours of media in a day, and I only have about three hours to do so. The ability to compress time is really valuable.

NBC Nightly News screengrab

I chose an ipod specifically because is has the best implementation of this that I’ve found so far, as it attempts to keep the pitch the same, while increasing the speed. It doesn’t sound normal, but it isn’t so strange that you can’t listen or understand for quite long periods. A 30 minute show magically becomes 15 minutes long and I have 15 minutes to watch something else.

The audio version of Nightly News will still be available yes, and I could download that and play it back at a higher speed. However, without the pictures, I would do better with a dedicated radio programme instead, radio reporters don’t constantly refer to things you cannot see.

I don’t know the reason NBC are getting rid of Nightly News in video, but in doing so, mainstream TV loses another viewer and they hurt their overall accessibility at a time when ease-of-access is one of the most important things for a media producer. Make it harder for people to get to your offer, and the majority just won’t bother.

If I had the time, I could probably do a screen-scrape of their web video and get the programme back, but there’s so much competition out there, I’ll probably just switch to something else.

I never cease to be amazed at how organisations suffering from audience-flight make decisions which will exacerbate the problem, but at least my ipod has a bit more space now.

Score: Innovation 1, mainstream media nil. Again.

Written by Robert

1 February, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Skype to make group video chat free

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Skype group video

Not so exclusive anymore.

If you’re one of the people who got a free year’s subscription to Skype Premium as part of the Christmas collaboration offer, and are congratulating yourself for saving over $100, then hold on! It might not be as great a deal as you think.

Skype are about to make some big changes.

First the ‘Collaboration Premium’ freebie doesn’t include any free phone calls to real phones (one of the main parts of Skype Premium), the other important part, group video calls is about to be offered free to everyone anyway.

Skype is also ditching both the 12-month subscription offer (with its 50% discount) and the 3 month version.

Here’s part of the email reply I got from Skype when I enquired where the 12 month option had gone.


The reason behind these changes is that Skype will soon include Group Video Calling for free for those users who will link their Skype Accounts with MSA [Microsoft account]


I’m guessing this means if you have a hotmail, outlook or email address.

So, if you’re about to buy or renew your Premium account, might be worth waiting to see if you can do with just Skype Credit (which is 30% off at the time of writing if you buy a git card)

Written by Robert

8 January, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Business, Software, video

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Changing address? Redirect your RSS

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So many ways to choose. Except if your RSS is dead, then you have zero.

The Economist, this means you!

If you move home, you can get the post office to redirect your letters so they come to your new address. If you change your internet address, it makes sense to tell your users where you’ve gone too.

So why do websites make it difficult for themselves by not doing this on their RSS feeds?

I almost never visit homepages, they are generally a waste of my time to flick through and find out what the new stuff is. I’ve even set my browser to come up with a blank page. Like most webusers, I begin with a search, or if I’m using some type of internet news reader software, then I’m using RSS.

If you change the address of your feed and don’t tell me, you’ve just lost me and everyone else who used to read you from that source.

Better still if you’ve decided to retire the blog, tell me and suggest alternatives. Don’t just stop updating. Best practice here from the Financial Times.

And the bad practice award also goes to the FT, as that’s exactly what they did almost a year ago when they moved their Tech Blog from


This means my feed just hangs on the last entry, 30 Dec 2010, and my tablet/phone/desktop newsreader stops working.

No more news for you

It’s not just news articles. Media downloads or podcasts depend on RSS. I haven’t had a new piece of Economist audio or video on my MP3 player since the end of October! No reason as to why in the feed. It still works, it’s just got nothing new in it.

So I pop over to their multimedia page.  Lots of new stuff on there, so at least they’re still making it. The RSS indicator on the page takes me to which oddly mostly contains links back to the main websites, rather than to RSS links and certainly not a working multimedia RSS.

Their (possibly out of date) video portal at does have a front and centre RSS link. But that takes me to yet another (possibly even older) list of feeds, none of which is the one I’ve requested.

So, the Economist was making interesting stuff that used to turn up on my MP3 player/tablet/phone.

It’s still making useful stuff, except that now I can only watch/listen when I’m at my computer (which is increasingly irregular).  Or maybe I can get it on a more useful device, except they’re making it really hard to find out how.

If you’ve got a working feed for the Economist’s multimedia output, do let me know in the comments!

Written by Robert

29 December, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Media, Mobile, Newspapers, radio, Technology, video

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Farewell the original UK Tivo

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One bit of kit I probably won’t be able to keep going much longer

In the midst of my zeal to get more value out of some of my older electronics I’ve just had a setback.

This morning I turned on my Tivo and got this screen:

Tivo UK Series 1 - end of life

No more predictions for me

To be honest, I’ve been expecting this news. There were always going to be two options. Either the hardware was going to expire (something I’d tried to mitigate already 3 years ago by upgrading the hard disc, the only mechanical component), or Tivo itself would turn the system off.

Option two happened first. Yes, I am an early adopter. Tivo launched in Britain in October 2000. But in having my Tivo for something like 8 years, I’m surprised that they waited quite this long.

The thing about Tivo which makes it different from other hard disc recorders is that it depends on a regular download of TV and radio programme data provided by Tivo itself. No EPG data, and the box becomes a dumb VHS device you have to laboriously set for each recording.

Tivo was something that Sky brought in to help navigate their hundreds of satellite channels. But a year later Sky realised it was something they could do themselves and launched the Sky+ box in 2001.

Tivo lingered for a little while but decided to stop selling their device at the start of 2003.

All that time it was actually Sky which maintained the Tivo platform. You never needed a Sky subscription however, Tivo worked perfectly well with Freeview, which is what I used it with. If you had a problem with your subscription it’s  Sky’s call centre you get put through to.

I actually bought a Topfield Freeview Plus recorder a year ago and I have been running the two side by side. I’d been trying to wean myself off Tivo because I knew my hardware didn’t have a future although I still use it on a daily basis. The reason why is significant and it’s something that today’s manufacturers still need to pay attention to.

1) Tivo is really simple to use.

2) The box predicts what I want to watch and if I forget to record something, it normally does it anyway.

And that’s it. That’s what’s kept me using it for 8 years. Many’s the time I’ve been on the train in the morning and while flicking through the free paper realised there was something on TV that night I wanted to watch. Dammit, I’d think. I wish I’d set the recorder.

Imagine my delight when I got home and discovered that this gorgeous box had done it for me! There was always something on TV I wanted to watch. I stopped watching linear TV (and advertisements) the same week, and I’ve never gone back. That knack of prediction is something Freeview and Sky never managed to replicate.

Compared with the Topfield device I have now, even 8 years on, the original Tivo interface is a *lot* easier to use.

I shall miss it.

But Tivo is about to  re-launch on a new platform and want rid of legacies like my old box. Although I imagine that with Tivo now being associated with Virgin Media , Sky don’t want to keep it going any longer. Maybe there are contractual issues. Who knows.

It would be interesting to know how many of the original Thomson Scenium devices are still out there, and what proportion of them are still paying £10 a month for the EPG download (there was also an option to buy a ‘lifetime’ EPG subscription for £300).

I will now have to try and make the best of the last few months of my Tivo’s life. It’s an analogue device so keeping it going beyond digital switchover was another issue on my mind. Getting out of the habit of tagging programmes I like or dislike will be a struggle.

But viewing has moved on. My next TV will be HD, as will the recording box I buy with it. It will have at least 5x the recording space, although the number of TV channels coming into it will stay about the same (I intend staying on Freeview)

My entertainment choice will still change though. My next TV will be able to download directly from the web and playback media from any device within a WiFi radius.

What won’t change is the amount of time I have to be able to watch the damn thing!

Written by Robert

15 February, 2011 at 11:22 pm

CNET Loaded doubles up – time to unsubscribe?

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Signal-to-noise ratio drops a little

I have a lot of video/audio downloads I carry with me. If I’m waiting for a bus, a train or a meeting, I tend to be watching or listening to something.

A regular view was CNET’s Loaded, a quick summary of tech news every weekday. I don’t get a lot of time, so I tend to watch a week’s worth at once.

They delivered a bombshell last week – they’re going bi-daily. This might be the trigger that makes me unsubscribe.

I just don’t have time to watch 10 editions a week! I can’t cope with 5, and as I also watch Geekbrief, I’ve been thinking that one of them has to go.

I’d almost decided it was going to be Geekbrief (a bit too squeaky and happy), but now I’m reconsidering.  Cali Lewis might just get a reprieve.

CNET’s reasoning is that Loaded can be 24 hours old by the time you watch it. Big deal. They’re sometimes a week old by the time I watch them, but I still value the content. Old does not equate to out-of-date.

Content providers are obsessed with ‘newness’. New is important, but so is being able to pick stories that interest me and that have meaning beyond the next 24 hours.

They also need to understand how unlikely it is that they’re my only content supplier, so they don’t need to give me everything. They can’t possibly do everything well, and become less relevant to me as they try to do so. As their filters get broader, they invariably stray into areas I’m not interested in.

I can’t help but feel that this concept becomes more important in an increasingly non-linear world. Tell me stuff that matters, not just stuff that happens, because I don’t have time for noise.

Written by Robert

18 May, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Posted in Media, video

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