Why producers need to stop pitching archive shows


I am going to start with a bold statement - no quality archive-format TV show can deliver the level of uniqueness, or audience attention, that original footage does.

It’s never been more important for broadcasters to deliver visceral experiences to audiences, and yet we are seeing a raft of programming that repurposes archive footage to tell a modern-day story, or recontextualises existing footage to suit a new narrative.

I get it to a certain degree. Budgets are tight, locations are limited and talent is hard to source. There is also an overriding sense of fear within the industry. Commissioners are under pressure, and fear of failure can prompt them to stick with tried and tested formats.  

As a producer you may feel that utilising archive content offers a cost effective and quick access solution. But there is only a certain amount of time that audiences are going to be satisfied with programming that all looks the same, and I promise that commissioners are looking for, and are receptive to, genuinely new television.

Stop raiding the archives, and instead look to user-generated content (UGC) to get your next commission.

Deliver a creative and competitive edge

UGC offers an opportunity to enhance show-making, with content that can give broadcasters access to great characters and meaningful stories. Fresh angles on existing stories that cannot be recreated with archive footage, a rich and diverse source of exceptional new stories, and access to new talent and new skill sets from around the world.

Even with the best editing, stitching together archive footage is akin to selling modern-day Attenborough audiences a Ken Burns-style documentary – it’s slow and dare I say it dull, when what they want is wonder and awe. Whether it's to connect with the world or disconnect from reality, audiences want something new, they want to be surprised, they want to be challenged, and most importantly they want variety and choice.

Be the pioneer. Take a commissioner something new, something no-one else has done, footage no-one else has seen - and make it easy for them to say yes.

Once in a lifetime storytelling

Whatever your show concept, remember an idea is abstract but stories are concrete.

Sure, you can trawl the archives for a nugget that’s been missed or lost footage that gives context to a new idea. But shining a light on real moments in the now, telling the stories shaping the world through once-in-a-lifetime footage, or being the first to capture a moment in time that simply cannot be recreated, offers a far more compelling narrative.   Even if you’re retelling a story, juxtapose archive footage with current UGC and you’ll always have a more interesting angle.

With UGC you have access to a diverse community of active contributors delivering fresh content every day. That could be trending and viral videos, insight into real lives, or breaking news footage that you can get into production quickly. Play to the commissioners FOMO - give them new and interesting stories and formats that they cannot afford to turn down.

The sizzle factor

Imagine being able to give a commissioner a fantastic idea, along with the proof that it’s exactly what their audience wants them to make.

To give commissioners the comfort factor you need a strong sense of what the show would look like, why now is a good time to make it, and why it would work for them.

Pitch in confidence. Unlike footage archives, thanks to the capabilities of AI, algorithms and sophisticated martech UGC can be tracked and filtered to predict and provide new, timely, unexpected, disruptive and unique content that will help you nail that pitch and get your show into production.

Words on a page are not enough. Why not up your chances of success even further and incorporate high resolution UGC into your sizzle to really capture attention - yes that’s right, uncapped access to the videos that will bring your pitch to life. Try getting that from a footage archive!

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Morgan Schofield
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Morgan Schofield