BBC Plan iPlayer-only Charges Amidst Licence Fee Defence

The BBC‘s structure of not airing commercials or charging subscription fees has always been one that has been questioned/admired around the world based on how corporately-minded you are, and it is a structure that is not going any time soon, according to the public broadcaster’s director-general.

bbc_logo_blackTony Hall, writing a guest column for the Daily Mirror, claimed that the Licence Fee approach (of £145.50 annually per household) that enables them to do this is still the relevant way forward, with subscriptions or advertising not only damaging commercial competitors in those fields by becoming a new and established alternative, but also preventing the British public from getting what they want out of a public broadcaster, which is “…great programmes that we can all enjoy”.

He wrote: “In the age of iPlayer, YouTube, Twitter and free services online, some people say the Licence Fee has had its day. I think they are wrong. Look at what you get in return for a fee that works out at 40p a day – Strictly, EastEnders, Doctor Who, Sherlock, the World Cup, Olympics, Match of the Day, CBeebies and CBBC, new dramas like Happy Valley and Line of Duty, the best natural history programmes, all of the BBC’s radio stations, the BBC website and iPlayer, news, sport and weather apps, and impartial news from around the world.”

Claiming that retaining the fee is the only way in which the BBC can retain control of their traditions and continue offering ‘something for everyone’, it was noted that the organization ‘has always moved with the times’ and would be able to be ‘modernised again’ should the need arise, as had been done with stopping radio licence fees and the introduction of colour TV fees. One of those measures is believed to be introducing the fee to viewers who have forgone TV licences in favour of watching all content through streaming, most prominently on the free BBC iPlayer platform.

Hall also points out the BBC’s accessibility as a popular factor, with the statistic that 1-in-25 viewers in America witnessed the final episode of cult series Breaking Bad through subscription cable network AMC last year, as opposed to a 1-in-5 UK audience for the Sherlock season 3 finale on the BBC. He added a further defence of traditional ‘live’ TV viewing, citing that 90% of all British television is still viewed live (compared with an ‘only slowly rising’ 2% for iPlayer-exclusive BBC households), with the audience numbers of 15 million for an Italy v England 2014 FIFA World Cup football match running past midnight a prime example of the BBC providing a means for a nation to “share an experience”.

Hall, in his role of director-general since 2013, has claimed that there is still plenty of life left for the licence fee, and that it is the best way of ensuring the organisation remain for years to come, in order to continue their ever-present goal of managing to “…serve everyone, whatever their background, sex or colour, the BBC needs to ensure its staff and presenters reflect modern Britain. The BBC’s job is to deliver to you. Not to politicians or the powerful. Some 96% of the population watch, listen or use the BBC every week. They choose the BBC 140 million times a day. Those 140 million decisions wouldn’t happen without our commitment to serve everyone.”

They could still do with paying certain members of their on-screen and behind-the-scenes ‘talent’ a little less, though, think how much serving could be done with that money…

Game of Thrones Actor Wins European Strongest Man Contest

While their friends at FX have recently brought a world record holder into their acting ranks, HBO have witnessed one of their current acting staff take a title of their own… albeit ‘only’ a Europe-wide one.

game_of_thrones_the_mountainHafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson, notable for his portrayal of “Gregor Clegane”, a.k.a. “The Mountain” in the house of Lannister on Game of Thrones, took part in a contest in Leeds (England) last week… and came away with the crown of “Europe’s Strongest Man”.

Taking a break from acting on the HBO fantasy drama while it is off-season, the 25-year-old former basketball player, measuring 6′ 9′” & 400lb in old money (or more accurately 2.06m and 181kg), will come back with a title not to mess with, achieved only 4 years after first taking up strongman competitions. Björnsson had previously had a highest finish of 2nd on the European strongman circuit having mostly won only local Icelandic competitions, and in March placed 2nd in the world finals in Los Angeles (USA), behind veteran Lithuanian competitor Žydrūnas Savickas.

In an interview with event organisers immediately after winning the fast but gruelling ‘Atlas Stone’ segment (seen below) in Leeds, Björnsson Hulk-ripped his t-shirt and screamed: “I am the future of strength, I am the king of the stones!”

So he should be pumped for Game of Thrones‘ season 5, then… if his character returns.

And speaking of Hulk comparisons… yes he has, and broke a couple of Guinness World Records while he was doing so. How far have you thrown your washing machine today?

FX Take The Strain For Second Season

FX horror series The Strain will be pleased to know that the network has confirmed its return for a second season this week, as producers prepare to get a new set of 13 episodes out for a summer 2015 premiere date.

the_strain_promo_eyeThe created by renowned moviemaker Guillermo del Toro, starring Corey Stoll and David Bradley, will take its total episode count up to 26 at the conclusion of the next run, though the current run is still yet to conclude, with 7 of its episodes to air between now and the season finale date of 5 October.

Speaking of the renewal (and of the show as a potential mainstay in network schedules) was FX’s CEO, John Landgraf, stating: “It is thrilling when you have a show that is a creative and commercial hit, which is a rare accomplishment in this increasingly crowded marketplace. We look forward to having [The Strain] on FX for as long as Carlton, Guillermo and Chuck Hogan need to tell this epic tale.”

Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that UKTV channel Watch have picked up the British rights to the first season of The Strain, and will premiere it on 17 September at 10pm.

UKTV’s ‘director of acquisitions’ Catherine Mackin said of this move: “The Strain feels totally fresh in the horror/fantasy genre – forget everything you’ve seen about vampires, as this series will turn it on its head and leave you spinning. It has a rich heritage of writing talent combined with stunning visuals and outstanding acting, and we can’t wait to bring this exciting and epic series to Watch. We are also delighted to be extending our relationship with 20th Century Fox Television Distribution and bringing more quality drama to the UK.”


Netflix European Popularity Will Bring 8 Million Subscribers By 2018

Everyone in Europe seems to either want a Netflix subscription, or to borrow a subscribers password, and as the streaming company expands throughout Europe, its popularity will be responsible for a fifth (20%) of all subscribers.

Netflix-sweden-norwayThat will be a jump from the present 10% according to research company IHS. Currently Netflix operates in the European Countries of the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, and Scandinavia with new markets of Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and Germany being added this year.

This will add an estimated 5-6 million new subscribers growing to an expected 8 million by the end of 2018.

Speaking for IHS, author Richard Broughton said, “We’re seeing launches later this year in a number more European markets, including France and Germany, and we’re seeing rapid growth from the markets that they’ve already launched in, so that suggests good prospects for the company in Europe. Over the next four years, growth rates will accelerate.”

He continued, “Between the expansion of Netflix and its growing popularity in markets such as the U.K., Ireland, Netherlands and Scandinavia, we anticipate that the company will add a total of 8 million new subscribers to its European tally by the end of 2018.”


Saved By The Bell Parody Biopic Releases Trailer

Lifetime‘s efforts to provide viewers with original content next month will begin heavily fuelled by nostalgia, as they pin hope on many 90′s kids tuning in to a biopic that loosely goes behind the scenes of the hit NBC show Saved by the Bell.

saved_by_the_bell_lifetime_movieThe teen sitcom, which ran for 5 seasons with 86 episodes (126 with Disney-based expanded franchise syndication) and 2 TV movies between 1988-1994 is considered a cult classic in its genre, and Lifetime are obviously of the belief that there is enough of that fan interest to make something similar to Doctor Who‘s 2013 biopic special An Adventure In Space and Time.

The special, called The Unauthorised Saved by the Bell Story, will showcase alleged behind-the-scenes moments between the child star cast of the series, with actors portraying the actors of the time (cast by Saved by the Bell‘s original casting director Robert Lippin), such as Julian Works as Mario Lopez, Tiera Skovbye as Elizabeth Berkley, Alyssa Linch as Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and Sam Kindseth as Dustin Diamond.

It is the latter’s autobiography of 2009, entitled Behind the Bell, that is believed to be the inspiration for the movie, as it showcased a much more scandalous nature to the cast members than the family-friendly promo images would suggest, though it has later been denied by Diamond with claims that his ghostwriter embellished throwaway comments, whilst producers of the Lifetime special claim to have created scenes based upon ‘hours of original interviews’ held with the cast.

Set to air on 1 September, will Lifetime’s unofficial in-depth film on Saved by the Bell be one of their own ratings hits for the year and drive forward a unique genre of movie?

ITV Confirm Stars in Their Eyes Comeback

Never a channel to shy away from the chance of a nostalgia headline, leading UK commercial broadcaster ITV have officially announced an upcoming return for former Saturday night entertainment staple Stars in their Eyes.

stars_in_their_eyesThe format, originally broadcast by ITV from 1990-2006 as an adaptation of Dutch format Soundmixshow, ran for 20 seasons that will be added to with the continuation as of next year, meaning it will have had a 9-year gap from the air.

A high-profile revival such of this out of nostalgia is usually made with an all-new presenter, and in this instance it is comedian Harry Hill (Harry Hill’s TV Burp) who will make his mark once more on prime-time entertainment by fronting the classic series.

The format, for the uninitiated, is a musical talent show in which members of the public participate in the guise of their favourite popstars with the support of industry-leading makeup/wardrobe artists, and performing a song ‘as’ them, with the ‘instant’ on-screen transformation preceded by the show’s catchphrase “Tonight Harry, I’m going to be [singer].”

Previous presenters to have this regular scripted reply given to them were Leslie Crowther, Matthew Kelly, Davina McCall and Cat Deeley, making Hill the fifth person to present the show in its history.

For the revival, a new arena and set is to be used, although the dates in 2015 which it will be seen on are currently unclear, as are the details of whether or not the contestants are singing for anything more than a title this time around.

Hill said of the opportunity, and of his past experiences with the franchise: “Without a doubt, appearing on Stars in their Eyes as Morrissey all those years ago (although beaten, unfairly in my view, by Kirsty Young’s Peggy Lee) was one of the highlights of my light entertainment career. So imagine the smile bought to my lips when I was asked by ITV at a secret breakfast meeting in a top London hotel to take the reigns of this Rolls-Royce of pop-impression talent shows and walk in the footsteps of showbiz giants Crowther, Kelly and Deeley! And on ITV too! Dust off the wigs and sequins – I’m coming home!”

Elaine Bedell, ITV ‘director of entertainment & comedy’, summarised: “It’s so good to have Harry back in the heart of ITV peak time, bringing his own unique, brilliantly comic flair to such a popular show. We love working with Harry at ITV, and we’re also developing further formats with the BAFTA award-winning comedian.”

Joining the likes of Catchphrase and Surprise Surprise in the comeback circle, will Stars in Their Eyes be able to recapture their glory days with a 2015 revival? Whatever happens, the technological standards will have improved… for better or worse:

If several of these renewed formats can be aired on the same night, then ITV have a nice potential programming block on their hands, but do they have the strength to take the extra 90′s step? By 90′s we mean 90′s, as opposed to Sky’s commendable ‘modern but not the same’ effort: