Preview – Commissioner Conversations: VoD & OTT

Posted on: Thursday 30 June 2016 5:42pm by David Heslop

Freelance producer & director, David Heslop (session producer for ‘Commissioner Conversations: VoD & OTT’ has some observations on ‘VoD and Me’

David Heslop image - session producerI’m of an age where I remember (in the fog-shrouded ancient times of the 1980s) coming home from school to find solid blocks of television just for me; one on BBC 1 and another on ITV. They ran from approximately three o’clock until about 5.25, until Neighbours started. And, aside from the obligatory weekend morning programmes, that was your lot. Regimented and ordered, a curated platter of dedicated children’s television served regularly at the same time, day in, day out.

Even as we moved from those after-school slots to the wall-to-wall smorgasbord of multi-channel TV – dozens and dozens of dedicated channels – it was still the grown-ups who were in control. Schedulers from Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney, CBBC, CITV and more were still in charge of what show went where and when (and, of course, responsible parents across the land were still in charge of when a child actually got to watch that show…). The number of channels and the number of programmes might have exploded, but even with all the TiVos and Sky Pluses in the world, kids still had to be at a certain place at a certain time to catch up with everyone from Bob the Builder to Spongebob Squarepants.

But has this era come to an end? As a possible answer, I offer an anecdote. I have two children under five, and neither of them really has any concept of linear television at all. What they watch is dependent on their mood, and they expect it to be right there when they fancy it – whether it’s ‘Hey Duggee’ or ‘My Little Pony’. On the rare occasions when they watch linear TV, they’re annoyed when they can’t control what comes on next (“can we watch that again, Daddy?”) or frustrated by adverts breaking the flow (sorry, everyone who works in commercial TV).

What does this mean? Well, obviously it’s one very isolated example. I’ve always been a very gadget-obsessed sort of person, and my wife’s no slouch in the tech department either, so the fact that TV in our house revolves around what’s accessible as an app on the Xbox isn’t much of a surprise. And one of the reasons for us choosing, at an early age, to put (say) ‘In the Night Garden’ on the iPlayer, or old episodes of ‘Pingu’ on Amazon Video, was so that we, as parents, had control over what the girls watched, how often, and when. Obviously as they age, this control starts to become more of a compromise, partly due to the presence of “if you liked that try this”-style adverts peppered around Netflix, and partly due to our daughters becoming more tech-savvy themselves. What will it be like when they’re six? Or ten? What will the services be like, which ones will have survived and what new outlets will have risen by then? And how can we continue to curate their experience, to ensure they only watch programmes we deem suitable?

AzoomeeIn a very real sense, our audience – the children themselves – are, to nod to the conference theme, making it happen for themselves. More and more, we speak to other parents who say their kids will turn to services such as YouTube, and on devices like an iPad, rather than watch scheduled TV. As parents, we need to keep abreast of this emerging market; as content creators or IP holders, I’d argue that it’s essential. With these thoughts as a backdrop, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to produce CMC’s first ever Commissioners’ Conversation session with representatives of VoD and OTT services. What do kid-focussed apps such as Hopster and Azoomee want? How can we take advantage of the bespoke services they provide? And where do traditional big broadcasters such as Sky sit in this new landscape? Well, with representatives from all three companies, we can hope to find an answer. And with the web’s ability to transcend borders, we needn’t focus just on the UK; France Television are wrestling with the same issues across the pond. What unique insights can they offer, and what opportunities can they provide? How do we get involved – how do we make it happen?

My personal streaming story might be unique to me, but I do feel – strongly – that as an industry we’re moving towards a future where children are more free than ever to access the content they want, when and where they want it. Hopefully our session will let us grapple with what that means for us as an industry, and as parents, too.

Commissioner Conversations: VoD and OTT, Wednesday 6 July, 15:30 – 16:30 in Showroom Cinema 4

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David Heslop

About the author

David Heslop

Freelance, Producer & Director

David is a Children’s BAFTA-winning producer and director with over ten years’ experience in kids’ TV. For CITV, he directed promos, programmes, and short-form content, and was a producer and script-editor on the multi-award-winning ‘Share a Story’ strand. He previously worked for Shine and the BBC, and is now a… Read more