The future of Australian television is going back to the past, as piracy drives networks to adopt a live and local 1960’s approach to programming, TV executives said at B&T’s MAD Week yesterday.
“I certainly think, the free-to-air industry at least will definitely go down a path of live and local. It’s the only way that they can differentiate their products against the pirates,” Foxtel’s executive director of television, Brian Walsh, said.
Network Ten’s Russel Howcroft, curator of Inside Media’s The Future of TV panel which also featured Seven’s Adam Elliot, SBS’ Tony Iffland and Shine’s Carl Fennessy, agreed.
“It is absolutely happening, which is a little back to – well it is the past, the notion of live and local would be 1960s television more than early 2000s television,” Howcroft, Ten’s executive general manager, said.
Looking at the top 20 television shows in 1992, Seven’s Elliot said only six were local Australian productions. But over the past five to 10 years local productions have started to capture the hearts and minds of local viewers.
“The reality is, when I look at Seven, our position for the last seven to eight years has been around local production,” Elliot said.
“Unfortunately that means…local production is not cheap. At some point it has to be give and take around how many output deals can you have?” The network recently cut a deal with NBC Universal.
The television industry is also facing a PR battle, according to Howcroft who said conversations around the ‘death’ of TV are “nonsense”.
“Over 14 million people turn on their television every single day…The data on social media is fascinating, 40% of the tweets on any given night is about the tele people are watching.”
“That’s the reality. That is the truth of the situation and yet the opening three words of our segment here today is TV is dead.
“For me there is a really interesting public relations thing going on here. Why? Why has the media got itself in the position where it has to debate its power?”
SBS’ director of television content and online content Iffland joked it’s because “we love talking about ourselves”.
For Foxtel’s Walsh the issue came back to piracy. While there is a lot of social media chatter about TV programs, Walsh questioned how many of those were watching programs legally.
“The unmeasured which is the amount of piracy which is going on is frightening,” he said.
“ As an industry that to me is the most challenging aspect of what I do day in and day out. It is just phenomenal, particularly in this country, how many people illegally download programming and feel that it is ok to do it.
“It’s scary and it’s scary for all of us here at this table.”