Anne (ajva) wrote,

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DW and the power of secrets

I've been thinking about this.

Here's a BBC story - RTD led - about how Doctor Who is keeping its secrets secret.

There occurred to me that there is a similarity here between the power of successfully keeping this secret, and a particularly counter-intuitive phenomenon that is known to people within the media industry. Let me explain.

For a long time over the past fifteen years or so, the television industry has been learning to deal with fragmentation of audiences, as more cable and satellite channels come into existence to challenge the old terrestrials, and therefore the average number of people watching each channel decreases. The cost of advertising on each channel is a complex mixture, a happy decision created by the compromise of the negotiation skills of each buyer from our company, and companies like ours, and those of the media sales people of each channel or (more usually) the sales people from the companies that do the job on behalf of the channels. For years now the negotiations have been based on (i.e. started from) something called "station average price", which is calculated off the performance of ITV. This is because ITV was, at its birth, the only commercial channel in the UK, so for a long time it was convenient to use its ratings and indeed its rates as one's starting point. This still happens.

However, throughout the 1990s and 2000s, ITV was losing share of viewing. The obvious conclusion would be that an advertiser should therefore pay less money to advertise on it. But here's the counter-intuitive kicker: in fact, advertisers pay *more*. The reason is that, as the TV industry develops, and more and more channels become popular, *large* audiences become scarcer, and so even though ITV's audience decreases in absolute numbers, the value of the scarcity of its largeness *increases* for advertising people.

So as I watched RTD's comment tonight about the importance of cliffhangers, it occurred to me that you could say that something similar is going on: the scarceness of true cliffhangers is extortionate in this day and age, which hugely increases the value of such a thing, and therefore of the programme.

In fact, ITV - amongst other broadcasters - would kill for it. :)
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