Report: Edinburgh International TV Festival - Who Needs a Commissioner Anyway?

An eclectic collection of panellists chaired by Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury examined the world of online video content at an anarchic event at The TV Festival in Edinburgh.

Cosmetics blogger Fleur De Force has acquired more than 300,000 subscribers on YouTube since she began using her webcam to record make-up advice for young women. She now sells merchandise through an online shop and has created a lucrative business for herself.

In her view the secret of success in this realm is a willingness to engage with your audience. "I offer a personal response... you'll impress your audience a lot if you do what they ask."

Jamal Edwards agrees. The founder of SB.TV delighted the Festival audience with his laidback charm and his declaration that viewers "get proper agitated with adverts" provoked a great deal of good-natured laughter. But Edwards's point was a serious one - like Fleur De Force, he'd learned the importance of listening to his audience and he knows they won't tolerate advertising on clips featuring unknown musical artists.

On the other hand, he knows his audience will watch adverts while waiting to see established acts. And Edwards believes this sensitivity to audience feedback is essential if you want to succeed online.

Justin Gayner began his career working in mainstream media but he became disillusioned with the commissioning process when he attended pitches with his mentor John Lloyd. Despite a track record that included Not The Nine O'Clock News, Blackadder, Spitting Image and QI the veteran producer was unable to persuade anyone in broadcasting to let him make new programmes: "I could see that the commissioning editors were all thinking, 'he's too old' and I decided that if a legend like John Lloyd couldn't get anything made then there was no chance for me".

Gayner decided to make programmes himself and his production company now produces hundreds of hours of content for around 130 online channels. Asked how he's managed to entice established talent like Richard Hammond to appear in his company's programmes, he admits that it's because online now pays its stars as much as mainstream TV. This he credits to lucrative sponsorship deals and the lack of overheads.

Lisa Opie who runs TwoFourDigital and Rocket Science feels that stars are also attracted to online productions because they can take ownership of the projects in which they're involved. She says that the freedom of the online environment is enormously appealing to anyone who has suffered the stifling experience of making television programmes in the mainstream.

According to Opie, online programmes and their makers haven't migrated to mainstream television yet because commissioners lack the imagination to seek them out but Fleur De Force feels that a lot of people who are used to the freedom provided by generating online content wouldn't want to move over to TV anyway. Jamal Edwards reveals that he recently tried to persuade Danny Cohen to revive Top Of The Pops using SB.TV's visual vernacular and became clear that he'd make the switch to mainstream TV if the right opportunity came along.

All the panellists agreed that its currently impossible to make a decent living on the basis of YouTube royalties alone and wise entrepreneurs use the profile they establish on the video website to branch into more lucrative areas of e-commerce or through sponsorship deals. This created the impression that the brave new dawn anticipated by so many people working in the television industry hasn't quite arrived but it's surely on its way.

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