TV Watch

This is the last TV Watch of the year, but perhaps the first of those “a look back at 199X and a look forward at 199Y” articles so popular each December.

It was a year of inflation. A slow autumn market may change the perspective for the whole year (see graph). However, this will not change the memory of 1995 as an expensive year. The minutage debate will continue next year.

It was also the year of the future: the Channel 5 licence was awarded, but could be delayed via the High Court; digital TV will be with us, eventually; the various interactive tests actually started testing; Labour made a deal with BT; talks went on about Coronation Street being sponsored; Disney and Playboy TV started; and everybody’s on the Net.

“While all around you are losing their heads…” BARB stayed calm and the contract rolled over for two extra years.

“I wish I had Stuart Butterfield’s or Martin Bowley’s bonus.” It was another good year for Channel 4, and Carlton won in London.

Princess Diana proved the value of record-breaking ratings as The Palace proposed negotiations to resolve her role.

Expectations that a further relaxation of ITV ownership rules will come soon perturbed some buyers and pleased others.

Next year might actually provide the calm before the storm. This is because 1997 already has plenty of media activity in the diary, including Channel 5 and the beginning of digital terrestrial television.

If 1996 is the “as you were” year, then the lack of immediate distractions will give an opportunity to existing terrestrial channels to convince advertisers of the benefits of their superior positions.

Marketing will be the buzz-word for TV channels. Promotional activity will be at an all-time high.

Will it make you feel like upping your budgets? Will it convince you that the current market is a relative garden of tranquillity compared with what the future might hold?

You will have to judge for yourself at the end of next year whether you believe that TV ratings are a pure commodity, or whether they disguise an extra intrinsic value depending on the channel that delivers them.

Don’t be surprised if airtime demand in the first half of 1996 shows similar dynamics to 1995. In other words, there is likely to be inflationary pressure.

Watch out for local cable TV diary research, to take place early in the year, which will cast some interesting light on viewing shares and bring into focus what BARB can and cannot do.

Whatever else goes on, one thing is for sure – producing or buying great programmes won’t get any cheaper. Even the most average library will find itself a willing purchaser, probably at an over-the-odds price.

Archive television has never looked so profitable. Public demand for reruns of Crossroads is growing by the hour and at the moment a video compilation would easily top the charts.

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