The top 5 broadcasting concerns in 2020, and how producers can overcome them when pitching unscripted content


2020 has been a particularly difficult and eventful year for broadcasting and production. You might initially question why, given that during lockdown the average amount of time people watched audio visual content increased by an average of 90 minutes a day. But the greatest growth was seen in subscription video-on-demand services. According to Ofcom, by June 2020 public service broadcasters’ market share fell to just 54.6% as they battled with on-demand services, as well as social media broadcasters such as TikTok and YouTube, for audience attention.

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In addition, COVID-19 lockdown left significant gaps in schedules, and all traditional expectations for impactful productions such as big budgets, high production value and complex studio set-ups were hit. Even after lockdown restrictions were lifted working under COVID safe conditions brought with it time and financial pressures for both production teams and broadcasters. 

However in a flare of optimism, unscripted content is proving increasingly popular. Reality programmes and docuseries content have been devoured by viewers this year. But how can producers and broadcasters capture this medium in the right way - in ways that deliver on the three R’s – Ratings, Revenue and Reputation?

As 2020 heads towards it conclusion and we look ahead to the future of broadcasting, Newsflare has spoken to key market leaders to understand more about their pain points and concerns, as well as how to overcome them. Here’s what we uncovered.

The problem with getting a commission

Getting a commission is like winning the lottery. For every 100 ideas, 97 will receive a straight “no”.  Of the three ideas a broadcast commissioner is interested in, and a producer develops further, the stark reality is that only one will eventually get that elusive commission. Costly and time-consuming work, with no guarantee of a result!

Simply having a new idea is not enough. It must be uplifting, inspiring and relatable.  It must create a premium narrative (that doesn’t only reflect the reality of the COVID world), be innovative, and creatively ambitious.  It must be capable of bringing new audiences, or attracting those that are hard to connect with. But even that’s not all…

From speaking to broadcasters, it appears that these five stars must also align perfectly if chances of success are to be improved:

  1. A strong relationship 
  2. Trust
  3. The right idea
  4. The right price
  5. The right time

Do they like you? Building a strong relationship

It can take years to build a relationship with a broadcast commissioner. Commissioning is a difficult job, and commissioners bear all the responsibility for the success and failure of their shows – so it’s not surprising they often turn to preferred people and production houses. 

However, major broadcasters have come under criticism for falling short when it comes to meeting targets for third-party commissions of late. Under pressure broadcasters are making lots of new creative hires, who will want to build their reputations as commissioners of exciting and differentiated content. So get in early and be decisive – help them achieve their ambitions. Unscripted content is less expensive to produce, faster to turnaround, and the right show can skyrocket in terms of ratings and revenue. Be bold - unscripted doesn’t have to mean reality TV or ‘fail videos’; unscripted means authenticity – content that can give the broadcaster great characters and meaningful stories.

Take them ideas that no-one else would make, that challenge conventions and trail-blaze. Do that, and you’re well on the way to building a relationship founded on creativity, trust and collaboration.  

Do they trust you?

A broadcast commissioner can be scared to commission a flop and risk getting fired, so will often take few risks, preferring to work with producers and formats they know best. If they choose to trust you and your idea then they’re making themselves vulnerable, but if they’re slow to act they can put themselves at a disadvantage and risk missing out on an opportunity to catapult their reputation. Worst of all, they might pass up an idea that later gets picked up by a competitor. They’re walking a tightrope, therefore you need to make it as easy as possible for a commissioner to say yes by taking away their fears.

When sourcing unscripted content, the power of your content provider can really come into play here. By providing audience insights, data and trends they can help you overcome the trust barrier, and demonstrate that not only is your idea bold, but it’s safe.  

BBC director of content Charlotte Moore recently said no amount of data could inform what to commission next. But when working in a risk-averse environment, the marriage of creativity and data (or art and science) is a powerful tool. Imagine being able to give a broadcast commissioner a fantastic idea, along with the proof that it’s exactly what their audience wants them to make. Over time, they are much more likely to place their valuable trust in you.  

The right idea, at the right time, for the right price

Unscripted content is one of the fastest-growing genres in 2020, and every day people with great ideas are breaking into the industry. So how can you make your idea stand out? 

If you’re looking for interesting subjects and original formats that you can produce cost effectively under current conditions, that work right now and are ready to go, then maybe you should look further than your own team. Reach out to content providers who can create and deliver unique concepts in partnership with you.  

Organisations such as Newsflare provide the ability to search and buy videos filmed by a diverse community of active contributors delivering fresh, verified (that trust thing again) content every day, whether that’s trending and viral videos, insight into real lives, or breaking news footage. But importantly this content, via the capabilities of AI, algorithms and sophisticated martech, is tracked and filtered to predict and provide new, timely, unexpected, disruptive and unique content that will help you nail that pitch and get your unscripted show into production.    

Unscripted content is more nimble, allowing you to overcome time and budget constraints. Content is immediately available, and it’s cost effective, so you can pitch in absolute confidence that you can get straight into production.





Tom Levin
Author

Tom Levin