If The Drum editor-at-large Dave Birss had his own TV channel things would be very different indeed, success wouldn’t be measured by the number of viewers, programmes would be made longer or shorter at the touch of a button, and viewers would have to dance along with Strictly on a Saturday night to unlock the next part of the show.
Ahead of the launch of video series ‘The Day Before Tomorrow’, which explores how technology is changing different industries, Birss was invited by the BBC to share what he would do with his own channel.
Tackling the topic from an innovation point of view, Birss revealed his channel – BBC Boom – would “shake stuff up and do things that haven’t been done before”.
Looking at four key assumptions of traditional television Birss examined how the TV landscape could be different if the conventions of broadcasting were thrown out the window with the long held view that the measure of a successful programme is the number of viewers the first myth to be shattered.
“All eyeballs are not created equal, a sofa zombie is not of equal status to someone on the edge of their seat completely engaged,” said Birss as he crowned interaction the new measure of success.
Creating programming purely for consumption in the living room was the next convention to be challenged with Birss suggesting broadcasters could “create programming for other rooms and not just the settee.” His suggestions included interactive cooking shows for the kitchen, snackable content for the bathroom and location-based programming with an understanding of context.
Using the example of MMORPG – massively multiplayer online role-playing games – Birss tackled the next convention that you need to start with the programming and everything else is an extension, calling for “real people to feed the broadcast, starting in the real world”.
He explained: “I was speaking in Iceland a few years ago and I got invited to a place where they have one of these online role playing games in Reykjavík called Eve Online, and what was interesting about what they had done was it was just after the financial crash so there was lots of bankers and financial thinkers out of work. They employed an economist at Eve Online and let this guy to experiments...the first test was ‘Do players online react to situations in the same way as people do in the real world?’
“They found that they do, in exactly the same way so they then started to run scenarios, ‘What if this happened in the real world’ – ‘What if there’s political instability here’, ‘What if this currency crashes’, ‘What if there’s a surplus of this mineral’ – and in this game environment they were able to model scenarios of what people would do in the real world. For programming surely we could do that as well? And have these games generating storylines?”
The final change BBC Boom would bring about would be programmes with no fixed length, for those needing quick catch-ups programmes could be edited down to their salient points and for those interested in what they’re watching the content could expand.
Using ‘The Day Before Tomorrow’ as an example Birss explained how the lengthy interviews conducted had to be cut down to fit but changing fixed programme length conventions would enable those with a vested interest to dive deeper into content, be that through extended interviews or even links to archived content on the same subject.
Though this talk was to provoke debate and challenge people’s thinking when it comes to broadcast with platforms like Netflix already shaking up the linear TV model, who knows maybe channels like Birss’ BBC Boom will be a reality sooner rather than later.
‘The Day Before Tomorrow’ video series will debut in July with Dave Birss interviewing some of the world’s leading authorities from companies including Nasa, Forrester and Philips. To watch Birss’ BBC briefing in full, it’s available here on the BBC iPlayer.