The Great British Bog Off

The BBC has just lost one of its flagship shows to Channel 4.  This is terrible for a variety of reasons, but on the other hand, the way the BBC finances its shows, it is is also to blame (via the government’s recent interference).

Since the BBC license fee affords some, but not all, programming costs, the BBC often turns to independent production companies – along with its own BBC Worldwide commercial division – to make up any shortfalls.  Costs are shared between private and public funds.  But the downside is that if a show that’s produced via a third party decide it can get a better deal elsewhere, it will.  But it also questions the loyalty of said production company at the BBC.  Will the Beeb likely to commission any more shows from these companies?  I wouldn’t.

The BBC has made some terrible decisions in the past – the most recent being the cancellation of the British version of Dirk Gently’s Detective Agency only to resurrect it in the US via BBC America.  BBC America is a joint effort between BBC Worldwide and AMC (which in turn is owned by Sony).  The only saving grace has been that Netflix has bought it, which means that it’ll be seen.  But will it last more than the commissioned number of episodes?  Who knows.  It’ll be an enormous waste of time if the show is subsequently cancelled if it is.  Why recommission a show (of which the original was partly funded by the  BBC license fee) to have it cancelled again?  Big risk of the BBC’s limited funds.

Regarding the Great British Bake Off, Love Productions & Channel 4 are gambling an enormous amount of money.  Will it get the kind of audience as before, given that it’s moved to another public broadcaster – albeit it one that is funded entirely by adverts.  The main presenting team and judges have yet to confirm whether they’re going to move.  £25 million is a lot to risk for a public broadcaster regardless of however it is funded.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why the BBC have commissioned a number of TV comedies shot in 2:39 aspect ratio.  The kind of ratio that’s reserved for films.  The impact of this is that you’ll see much bigger black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.  This isn’t too much of a problem If you’re watching on a reasonably sized TV.  But if you’re watching on a mobile phone or tablet, you may be squinting a bit.  Sure, you’ll be able to get some beautiful landscapes in, and you can frame things in an interesting way – but it’ll still look ridiculously small on smaller devices.  You’d think these people are making a Western in Super 70mm/Cinemascope.  But nope, they’re 30-minute comedies.  Made for TV.  I’m not convinced it’s a good ratio to be using for the multi-platform device generation.  Not unless smartphones are bigger than 20″, and tablets are 40″ and require two people to carry them. Not until everybody has access to 80 inch super widescreen TVs.  Or run everybody watches everything at the cinema.  Or TV projectors.

1.85 is a much better ratio.  I’d even go as far as saying that, given that a lot of money is made from video on demand and physical media from films, you’d be better off shooting 1.85 for movies too.  That way, you’ll get a wider (but not too wide) frame that’ll make the best use of today’s multi-device consumption.

Or maybe it’s just me.  Art v. practicality.  Difficult choice.