Channel 4 heads to Silicon Valley with ‘Techs in the City’

Channel 4 heads to Silicon Valley with ‘Techs in the City’

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Channel 4 has commissioned The Connected Set to produce Techs in the City, a one-off documentary following the efforts of super-bright overachieving young high flying British entrepreneurs chasing their dreams in Silicon Valley, California.

Silicon Valley is home to the hottest new tech companies in the world and a growing number of incredibly smart and very young British guys and girls are flocking to the Golden State to experience the pressure, high stakes and rewards of California’s start up scene.

Youth and brains count for everything with some investors considering those over thirty over the hill. Techs in the City will show the highs and lows, stresses and strains of running a multimillion dollar technology company.

Techs in the City was commissioned by Education Commissioning Editor Bec Milligan and is one of the first tranche of commissions from Channel 4’s Education team since a recent restructure and is part of the broadcasters wider strategy for the genre.

Commenting on the show Executive Producer Jason Mitchell said: “At a time when so many young people face barriers to finding employment here in the UK it’s a real inspiration to see this group of hard-working tech-savvy British expats risking it all to fulfil their dreams. Their ambition, success and the work-hard play-hard culture will make fascinating viewing.” 

For further information get in touch.
Posted by Jason 2014.03.09 Channel 4 No Comments

2013:Mashed on Channel 4 Sunday 29th December at 11:05pm


MASHED2013_ 500

 

Exciting news at TCS towers – we’ve asked some of the internet’s biggest and funniest names to mash up 2013 with 100% original work for Channel 4.

2013:Mashed will be a disturbingly hilarious review of the big news events of 2013 told through 100% original media mashups made by the internet’s most famous and ingenious talent, hosted by the brilliant Rich Fulcher.

The roll call of awesome animators, musicians, visual artists, autotuners and comic performers includes Dan Bull, Nick Den Boer and John Boswell who stand alongside fresh new talent.  They’ve all been commissioned to produce exclusive brand new work that you won’t find anywhere else but on Mashed.

This year everything is in their sights, from politics to showbiz to the stories that set the internet on fire (and some that didn’t) including Miley’s twerking; Nigel Farage becoming a ‘gangsta rapper’, and a roundup of the year wouldn’t be complete without a Kardashian mention.

Check out the show on Sunday 29th – or you can find us at channel4.com/mashedyoutube.com/mashed – or twitter.com/mashed

Channel 4 Online’s first TV commission 2012:MASHED on air this Friday 11:40pm

It’s been 10 crazy weeks to get to this point but we’re pleased to announce our first TV show, 2012:MASHED, will be on air this Friday (28th Dec) at 11:40pm on Channel 4.  The show was jointly commissioned by Channel 4′s head of online Richard Davidson-Houston, alongside commissioning editor for Entertainment, Madeleine Knight.  It’s the first linear TV show to have been commissioned by Channel 4 online.

2012:MASHED is an insane look at the big news events of 2012 through totally original media mash-ups made by the internet’s most famous names including Dan Bull, David Schneider, Cassetteboy and Rob Manuel.  Presented by the Mighty Boosh’s Rich Fulcher, we’ll be taking on stories including Barclays Bank Libor-fixing, the rise of Fifty Shades of Grey, the Queen’s Jubilee, tax avoidance by big corporations, and many more.

If you don’t get to watch the show on Channel 4 then it will be available on 4oD until the end of January.  See more at channel4.com/mashed

Here’s a sneak peak at some of the clips you’ll get to see in the show:

Posted by Jason 2012.12.24 Channel 4, General No Comments

Check out E4′s new Spotify app built by TCS for Channel 4

The E4 app on Spotify built by The Connected Set

Channel 4 today announced the launch of a new E4 interactive music streaming app hosted by Spotify and built by The Connected Set.  It’s the first partnership with a UK TV broadcaster for the leading digital music service.

From today, E4 viewers will be able to find music from their favourite shows including Made In Chelsea, Misfits and Skins, in the free and easy-to-use E4 app in the Spotify app finder. The app will also integrate with Spotify features to allow users to instantly play music from E4 shows and share the music on social networks including Facebook and Twitter.

The app’s Playlist Generator feature allows users to create and share their own E4 playlists made up of the music from E4 shows.

Exclusive to the app, top E4 stars will also share their ultimate playlists – so users can check out Ollie from Made In Chelsea’s favourite tracks or Skins’ Richard Hardbeck’s top tunes.

The E4 app will continually update with new shows as they hit the screen so users can look forward to even more music from brand new shows including My Fat Mad Teenage Diary and Youngers, coming soon to E4.

Sarah Rogers, Product Manager at Channel 4 said: “We’re really excited to be Spotify’s first broadcast partner in the UK to bring E4 viewers and Spotify fans alike a unique experience with this innovative new app.

“We know E4 fans love to source the music from their favourite shows but this new app will make doing that incredibly easy. The simple-to-use app interface will already be familiar to Spotify users and all the music will be in one place, ready to listen to wherever and whenever users want.”

Tash Shah, Spotify’s UK Head of Marketing, said: “E4′s shows are known not only for being great entertainment, but also for using excellent soundtracks to enhance emotion and drama. This new app on Spotify will be home to of all the great music on E4 – letting you relive those dramatic moments and helping you to discover all the exciting new music curated especially by E4.”

The E4 app is free to download from the Spotify desktop client for PC & Mac and was built by the talented team at The Connected Set.

Welcome to our new head of development

Welcome to Amber D’Albert who joins The Connected Set as Head of Development.

Amber joins from content strategy agency Ignite where she worked for clients including BBC Worldwide, ITV Studios, Unilever, and most recently Channel 4 looking after their Fuel4 programme of events.

Amber will be leading the drive to invent the next transformative converged TV format that can work with today’s living room technology.  Amber’s appointment completes the company’s development team; mixing great TV producers, digital developers and content strategists into one central creative unit.

Amber arrives at a busy time for the company as we kick off mobile, TV and web projects for Channel 4, Virgin Media, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, New Art Gallery Walsall and Cass Sculpture Foundation.

British TV broadcasting: 2012 Predictions

It’s that time of the year where it’s obligatory to make a few predictions about the year ahead.  Here’s my topline thoughts on what’s in-store for British TV broadcasters and producers in 2012:

5 things that are likely to happen

1. Massive upheaval in TV commissioning teams
For those commissioners that have their fingers firmly in their ears when it comes to multi-platform storytelling 2012 will be the year they get found out. Maybe five years ago it was cute to say “I’m no good with computers”, now it’s frankly embarrassing when you’re supposed to be in touch with how your audience are behaving. Channel 4 will probably be the most visible broadcaster to transform its commissioning team – weeding out people that are either not capable in a convergent age or are stale from too many years in the same place, and unlike in previous years where it was a case of musical chairs in the TV commissioning job market expect to see new types of producer stepping into their empty shoes.  With some big departures already announced at C4 it will be interesting to see who they hire.  Where Channel 4 lead expect others to follow – not least at UKTV now 50% owned by US network Scripps who will be looking to drive revenues through their digital lifestyle properties.  ITV on the other hand will probably continue to flail around in a state of utter confusion.

2. Reform of independent production commissioning quotas
With NewsCorp, NBC Universal & Time Warner rapidly snapping up indies (plus Endemol and All3Media likely candidates for acquisition in 2012) there will be an increasing pressure to reconsider the effectiveness of indie commissioning quotas in supporting grassroots creative TV production businesses.  I’m told that when Jeremy Hunt recommends reform to quotas in the forthcoming Communications Act he’ll be under considerable pressure from the BBC to replace the current ‘catch all’ indie quotas with a quota for start-up and small independent producers.  The likely effect on the big indies will be marginal as they already have diverse and often international businesses, but for smaller players this could be a huge boost and precipitate a new wave of startups (particularly led by key talent currently in broadcasters and the bigger indie groups).

3. The Rise and Rise of YouTube
2011 was the year where Google’s Eric Schmidt extended the hand of friendship to the TV broadcast and production community at Edinburgh TV Festival – wanting to bring together the ‘luvvies’ and the ‘boffins’ (all of course mediated by Google technologies and platforms).  Burnt by the lack of interest in Google TV in the US during 2011 Google were in overdrive wooing the British TV community as they prepare to launch Google TV in the UK.  Now in 2012 we’ll see how far Google are willing to go when the broadcasters most likely don’t play ball.  Google already have thousands of hours of professional content in production for a new suite of YouTube ‘channels’ and expect them to ramp this up further.  I’d put money on YouTube securing exclusivity with a number of key TV personalities to front content for them (is Jamie Oliver’s contract up soon?  Or what about Oprah or Doctor Phil?) plus they’ll go after sports rights, first look movies, bring back TV series – expect Google to write some big cheques for content in 2012.

4. Battle of the connected TV services
Putting Google TV to one side there will be a huge push by Microsoft to turn the XBox in to a premiere entertainment hub with a number of high profile content deals coming on stream in early 2012.  There’s the launch of youview *sometime* next year which, if done correctly, could be the logical next generation of Freeview for 8million+ homes. There’s the increasing sales of connected TV’s from the likes of Samsung, Panasonic, LG etc as people upgrade their TV’s for the summer olympics (although a continuing lack of compelling ‘app’ content will remain on these CE devices because of platform fragmentation), and finally there’s the rumoured entry of Apple in Q3 with an Apple TV set which will inevitably have a fantastic product design, intuitive UI (possibly using Siri) and great content via iTunes.  Away from the consumer electronics space there will also be some big entrants on the content distribution front – not least Netflix launching in the UK in early 2012, but don’t be surprised in Tesco does something clever too following its purchase of Blinkbox.

5. A breakthrough multiplatform format
This is the one I’m really hoping for!  There’s been success with shows like “Million Pound Drop” and tomorrow Channel 4′s next big interactive gameshow “The Bank Job” is due to launch, but I hope 2012 will deliver something truly transmedia that breaks all the rules.  I’m not saying “Million Pound Drop” isn’t a great show – it is – but I’m not sure how much we’ve really moved on in terms of play-along since BBC’s “The National IQ Test” which is now officially 10 years old!  Yes achieving 12% playalong levels is very good but I would love to see something that is so compelling to the audience they just have to participate!  I’m not saying all TV should be like that – lean back television is what the audience want most of the time – but I’m hoping 2012 will see at least a couple of new immersive formats that push boundaries, particularly in genres other than traditional studio gameshows… that’s certainly my personal focus for 2012.

Supporting SMEs: Is it time Channel 4 ask ‘what is an indie’?

I read this weekend in Broadcast that the DCMS is thinking about ways to safeguard smaller indies when it writes the new Communications Act… and one of the more radical suggestions is to do away with broad-brush indie quotas and introduce a minimum quota for broadcasters to commission from SME indies.

Whether you like regulation or not, there’s no denying the positive impact the creation of Channel 4, the establishment of indie commissioning quotas and the BBC window of creative competition has had on the health of the indie sector.  Take All3Media for example, it’s got a turnover approaching £500million and it still has independent status (although maybe not for long as it seeks a buyer).  All3 are a great British success story and I congratulate them, but there’s no denying how much power is now concentrated in a small number of giant media groups… and if SMEs are going to lead the economic recovery this could become a problem.

But surely it’s all about the quality of the ideas – everyone is equal no?  If only that were true but commissioners are human – they prefer to give work to people they like and have worked with in the past (or if you’re skeptical like me they particularly like giving work to media companies that might employ them in the future).  It makes total sense to work with people you trust, however is there a way we can get commissioners to work with a handful of companies they don’t know on top of the usual preferred supplier list?  Sometimes obliging them to do this is the only way to make it happen.

And then there’s the reality that size is strength and the big media groups have the resources to negotiate better terms of trade, they can overspend on a pilot or completely self-fund a development, and they have their own distribution arms to retain profits.  I don’t begrudge them their success, but when you’re a startup who has to pay £600 an hour for legal advice to try and get halfway to the terms the big boys can negotiate it becomes a problem – the rich just get richer (one specific recommendation on that point: broadcasters should be consistent with their terms of trade (don’t screw your small suppliers while you’re getting screwed by the big suppliers – all you’re doing is making the big suppliers bigger so they can screw you even harder)).

I think an SME indie quota would certainly help redress some of the imbalances in the indie sector – but let’s not forget an SME is any company with a turnover of up to £50million or under 250 employees – there needs to be real focus on the ‘S’ end of the scale… these are the people who can innovate quickly, who can think in new ways and formats, and will ultimately determine the future direction of TV.

Which takes me to Channel 4.  I personally have no issue with indie quotas being scrapped altogether then it comes to BBC and ITV, but one of the key reasons Channel 4 was set up was to help nurture and develop the independent sector – and what an amazing job they’ve done.  It’s great that the network are again being proactive in investing in ideas from small indies from within and outside of traditional TV, but isn’t it time for a more radical approach?  Isn’t it time Channel 4 redefine what an indie is – to return to their roots – to invest in the kinds of ideas that could only come from an enthusiastic, often-naive, idealistic boot-strapped startups?  I know I run the risk of sounding like a xenophobic protectionist but is it Channel 4′s job to line the pockets of NewsCorp, NBC Uni and TimeWarner – or nurture new British businesses? Isn’t it time to rip up the schedule and become a genuinely alternative voice in broadcasting?  Yes advertising revenues may dip slightly, and in turn there may be less money for the ‘Gok’s Fashion Fix’es and ‘Come Dine With Me’s of this world, but is that really a disaster?  Is success just ratings and ad-revenue, or could it be in kick-starting a new dawn in British independent production, in innovation and alternative types of format, and in reshaping broadcasting?

I know I have a vested interest – but as the whole world is on the cusp of economic reorganisation maybe it’s time for Channel 4 to change with it?

 

Zeebox and first mover advantage

3 weeks ago I bought myself a sexy new Samsung smart TV, then just over a week ago came the perfect accompaniment in the form of Zeebox for the iPad.  Sure it may not be the most incredibly groundbreaking idea to create a TV listings app that delivers and allows you to share contextual information about what you’re watching – but then it’s simple things which often catch on.  Most of us have done the conference circuit and heard talk after talk about all the amazing possiblities of the second screen syncing to TV (from interactive ads to transmedia TV formats, shopping to new forms of content discovery), but now someone’s actually done something about it, and you’ve gotta at least respect that.

So here’s what I like:

1. Simple, intuitive and clean UI: It’s a really sleek design on iPad.  I love the forwards/backwards EPG (albeit limited to now, next and the previous show).  Clearly Anthony Rose has taken one of the better ideas from youview and run with it, although it would obviously be very exciting if/when it integrates with catch-up services.  I also like the simple ways of organising content by channel, popularity, friends and genres… if I had more than one friend on Zeebox I’m sure the ‘friends’ view would be quite compelling, which takes me on to…

2. Social features: It’s nice I can see what my friends are watching (although maybe my friends don’t appreciate me knowing they’re watching ‘Boob Envy’ on PickTV).  I like the prospect of inviting friends to view with me (again, when I have more friends on the app).  It’s a great bit of foresight to automatically add the show hashtag when I go to tweet.  And the fact my login to the app is via Facebook Connect makes life easy too.

3. Zeetags: Sure some of these aren’t quite right – but they’re pretty spot on!  While everyone else seems to be talking up investing shed loads of money into audio stream technologies Anthony Rose has taken the simpler and cheaper approach of generating tags from subtitles.  Ok – so it’s not that exciting that zeetags only lead to wikipedia and news – but there is HUGE commercial and creative potential here for both broadcasters, content owners and third parties – zeetags could be like a google adwords (or promoted tweets) for TV.

4. Controls your TV: I love the fact it can switch between channels on my TV – that makes it worth it alone.  Of course it’s pretty limited right now and doesn’t really address the issue that I tend to flick between Freeview HD and Sky – but again there’s a lot of potential as Zeebox is cutting out the remote and the traditional EPG – again a clever move with big implications (how long until a service like YouTube or Netflix buys a placement in the Zeebox EPG?).

5. Fast: It goes without saying but to keep my attention the app needs to download images/metadata quickly and be traction free – and it is pretty good in this regard.

There’s a few other bits in Zeebox that I’ve not tried or don’t really pay attention to (shopping, audience popularity, twitter feed (but that’s because I have my tweets open in tweetdeck on my third screen)), but then I’m sure others do use them.

The big thing for me is this has the potential to be disruptive.  So no one’s heard of ‘Zeebox’ as a brand yet, but how far behind are the broadcasters with their own version of this kind of thing?  If youview try to do something then are we to wait another year?  In that time zeebox (which will be on iPhone and android too I’d guess) may be a destination in its own right.  I was running a brainstorm called ‘Death of the Remote Control’ at Mindshare last Thursday and I was taken aback when I showed them Zeebox and they got very excited at how they could promote brands through zeetags… there are serious dollars which might leak to this kind of third party app.

So what are broadcasters to do?  They can get on board and make Zeebox an even more compelling proposition by giving it access to advertising timelines, additional content, interactive features, on-demand, and maybe in return share that potential revenue and get some valuable data?  Or they can try to kill it – create technical standards that make integration complex, deny it access to on-demand content, or try to create something better (and stay better).

It’s an exciting (and shrewd) move on the part of Anthony Rose.  To deliver something like this in under 9 months is pretty impressive, and the broadcasters are going to struggle to move at that pace themselves. I look forward to seeing what Zeebox, broadcasters and advertisers do next.

Zeebox Video Tutorial

Needed – iOS PM, iOS Lead Developer, Senior TV Producer

Part-time Project Manager (2-3 days a week for 3 months initially)
Project: iPhone game development.
Start: ASAP but no later than 3rd January 2012.
Client: Tate.
Location: Brighton or Dundee.
We’ve been awarded funding by IC Tomorrow to build a prototype for a new mobile game to be deployed initially in the Tate. We’re looking for a project manager with good experience in overseeing iPhone developments to work part time on the project.  With development split between Brighton and Dundee you’ll not only be super organised but a brilliant communicator with teams that work remotely. Because we’re a lean start-up we’d also ideally like candidate with a strong eye for UX, although you will have 10 days with a visual designer to refine the vision.
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Part-time Lead Developer for iOS (2-3 days a week for 3 months initially)
Project: iPhone game development.
Start: ASAP but no later than 3rd January 2012.
Client: Tate.
Location: Brighton or Dundee.
We’ve been awarded funding by IC Tomorrow to build a prototype for a new mobile game to be deployed initially in the Tate. We’re looking for an experienced iOS developer to lead the build of the product. You’ll have a team 2 junior/graduate developers to manage who will be based in development studios in Dundee.  Strong experience of iOS, MySQL/PHP and Facebook/Twitter APIs a must.  A good eye for UX a plus, as is knowledge of HTML5 or development for Android – but not essential.
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Senior TV Producer (4-5 days a week for 3 months initially)
Project: new business
Start: 7 November 2011.
Location: Brighton.
We’re looking for a senior producer who can split their time between an exciting pilot and our development slate.  Ideally you’ll be an experienced senior TV producer with a number of terrestrial credits.  It would be particularly useful if you have experience in archive shows and entertainment shows.  And most of all we need someone who’s full of ideas and lovely to work with.  You’ll be managing one other person (an AP).  This position is Brighton based and we’re looking for someone who has a home address outside of the M25.
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People in TV are their own worst enemy- not data

I’ve just read in Broadcast an extract of Peter Bennett-Jones’ BAFTA speech – with the headline “Has data become the enemy of originality?”.  The article is about how broadcasters are taking less risk because of the increasing use of data in decision making – namely that commercial pressures drive commissioners to chase ratings, and this ultimately leads to a raft of derivative programmes.  The result, according to PBJ, is that “original and polemical programming is in the casualty ward”.

This view troubles me… data is a great thing. Look at the world of entertainment outside television… is crunching numbers and understanding audience behaviour making things like social games worse?  Apart from the fact if it weren’t for understanding this data social games wouldn’t exist, let alone be a $2billion market, but understanding the numbers (and by extension the audience) means they can constantly innovate, tweak their product, and improve the experience.

The real problem with how data inhibits innovation in TV is actually a cultural problem in TV itself… *some* (or maybe I should say *most*) people who don’t understand how to use data to aid creativity.  I actually don’t have a problem with commissioning on the basis of how a similar format did on another channel when moving that format on in a decent way (for example it’s great how Channel 4 borrowed the successful ’fixed camera rig’ from shows like Big Brother and applied it to documentary), that doesn’t mean that I approve of the BBC making ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ as soon as they saw ‘Downtown Abbey’ was a hit.  One thing I certainly disapprove of though, much to the disappointment of the old school of TV producers and commissioners, is commissioning based on whims – on things you read about in a newspaper or something your daughter said was a good idea.  Occasionally you hit gold, but rarely.  I think it’s a unique trait of TV that decisions are so often made with little or no business case, at least data goes some way to helping broadcasters scrutinise ideas.

Where data could really empower commissioners goes beyond just understanding the competition – it even goes beyond understanding the audience - it should be about responding to them, and quickly.  The big entertainment companies operating online work on an ‘agile’ basis -they release quickly and refine constantly.  Wouldn’t it be great if TV were more like that?  Ok – maybe not always practical for a drama, but what about live TV?  I personally loved ’10 O’Clock Live’ on Channel 4 – but it didn’t rate that well – and the format didn’t change over the entire run. Sure things can take a while to get an audience and I’d never advocate ripping up the format completely each week – but where was the iteration, the testing, the evolution of the show?  It’s not just ’10 O’Clock Live’: ‘Famous and Fearless’, ‘Red Or Black’, the list goes on.

Peter Bennett-Jones may yearn after the good old days when it was all about the idea – that ‘hunch’ on an A4 piece of paper with no supporting evidence.  I’m not saying broadcasters shouldn’t take risks, they must to stay ahead, but data can mean the difference between an informed risk and just being downright reckless.  If TV is going to survive in the long term we all have to work and think differently.  We need to use the powerful and exciting richness of data to improve the products we offer – and ultimately improve the prospects for our businesses.

Peter Bennett Jones speaking at BATFA

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