Advanced Television

2024, less will be more

January 4, 2024

At this time last year, I was writing about the shameful shambles that was the inevitable disintegration of Richard Sharp’s tenure as BBC Chair. A cash machine crony of Boris Johnson, his tenure was nothing short of embarrassing all round. It has taken a year for a new Chair, Samir Shah, to be named. The process has been as arcane and opaque as ever, but he is, at least, an experienced broadcast executive in both the public and private sector.

So, a good start to the media year? Reasons to be cheerful for 2024? As ever, it will depend on your perspective – i.e. where you are seeing things from. If you have ridden the wave of streamer competition, and its over investment in content, then it will be relatively lean time. On the other hand, if you are an investor in streamers, the picture might look better, either as a consolidator or as a willing target of consolidation.

If you are a streamer executive, it might be a nervous year. There will definitely be more consolidation and, therefore, much musical chairs to decide who gets to run the reduced number of players.

And the content itself? The Golden Age of continuing drama may prove to have been short-lived. As with movies, the best of them will be long remembered, but many more will be long forgotten. Unlike movies – where even bad ones can be consumed again without wasting too much time – no one is ever going to watch a mediocre 10-part series again.

Meanwhile, more reasons for optimism, some films in 2023 – Oppenheimer, Barbie, Napoleon – were successful despite not being sequels or prequels or culled from a comic.

Given the bad economics of expensive TV dramas, other overlooked genres could also make a comeback. Will 2024 be the first year of a breakthrough soap on a streamer? And sitcoms: look at what is still paid for Friends. Expect more – and hopefully with the sense to loss-lead the first season; Schitt’s Creek was a sleeper success, and many classic series of the past would now have been cancelled on the basis of their first-run ratings.

What about how the shows will be found? Service providers are already pushing the envelope on ‘de-channelling’ – providing unified screens of shows from across the consumer’s subscriptions. Will 2024 see the first effective third-party guide available for all channels, including links to the content? Will RoI pressures even drive streamers towards letting service providers make a PPV proposition for some of their shows?

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