8 Takeaways from the 2017 Edinburgh TV Festival

Authenticity and global moments were just a few of the top talking points from Day 2 & 3 of the Edinburgh TV Festival.

My Takeaways from Day 2 & 3

  • Be authentic (the audience can see through something which isn’t genuine and they’re absolutely spoilt for choice in terms of what to watch today).
  • Should CVs be a requirement for creative roles? Many of the leading brands are looking for examples of creative work rather than a CV.
  • Creating content for the online world presents fewer barriers to entry, a quicker turnaround and an opportunity to be more immersed in the social media discussion.
  • Geoblocking can hinder the growth/reach of a piece of content. Influencers with a global audience may hold off on sharing something due to a fear of upsetting their fans/audience who won’t be able to watch it. YouTube's Dan & Phil did, however, state “if someone wants to watch something, they’ll find a way”. With that in mind, YouTube helps to feed the global appetite because it is readily available all over the world.
  • It’s easier for people to be “cool” than brands. Use influencers and personalities to front your coverage of events/programmes, have them participate in online discussion. They should be monitoring social to learn from each appearance/episode, or to shape the discussion of upcoming programmes — BT Sport and Rio Ferdinand lead the way here.
  • Athletes/personalities don’t have to give you the time, so it’s important to make an interview different, make it something they’ll enjoy if possible.
  • YouTube stars have such a broad understanding of the creation process, undertaking so many steps to make their content suitable for online consumption. There’s a wealth of young talent on a platform frequented by more than a billion global users, many of these young creatives have a loyal fanbase and could help bring a younger audience to TV.
  • Some of the most regularly mentioned programmes included Skam, Riverdale, 13 Reasons Why and Black Mirror’s San Junipero episode.

A Baroness & A Badman

  • Humza Arshad (YouTube Comedian & Coconut — BBC Three)
  • Oona King (Global Director of Diversity at YouTube)
  • Chaired by Ben Cooper (Controller BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra)

Ben opened by discussing the diverse backgrounds on Radio 1 and 1Xtra. He mentioned that applications for Radio 1 internships are in the form of content/video, no application, no CV, as this opens it to diverse backgrounds and removes education boundaries often looked at when sending in a CV.

Oona discussed YouTube’s Creators for Change programme, which promotes YouTube’s values and gives those with a voice a platform to broadcast it.

Humza mentioned that one of the main appeals of YouTube is that it’s a platform without gatekeepers and it works so well with traditional media.

Watch A Baroness & A Badman with Humza, Oona and Ben.

The Great YouTube Take Off — Dan & Phil

  • Dan Howell & Phil Lester (YouTube stars)
  • Chaired by Sue Perkins

Dan and Phil were already established on YouTube before social media really took off, giving them a strong offering when the platform really began to grow. They succeed because they are “passionate, not chasing money”.

The duo wanted to make it clear that a YouTuber isn’t just a gamer, they craft the whole process from script and lighting, to editing and marketing — they feel there’s a misunderstanding around what a vlogger is. They were also quick to state that they feel there isn’t enough quality drama for younger audiences, yet there are so many talented young individuals on YouTube/online. More young people on the TV would bring younger audiences — in their opinion.

“The global and free-to-all internet gives a platform like no other for creation and sharing, something which sometimes can’t be done through TV”. Interestingly, Dan & Phil mentioned that if a piece of content is geoblocked, they are less likely to share it with their global audience as it’ll impact their brand and overall reach, sometimes with a negative outcome.

The panel discussed the appeal of “global events”, when a massive event takes place around the world at the same time, such as sporting events, or the fact Game of Thrones was debuted on TV at the same time around the world — this also drives huge social discussion online.

Channel 4’s social media performance was mentioned, as a nod to the fact that the channel drove 2 billion views on Facebook in 2016.

Finally, a few gems from Dan & Phil:

“YouTube prioritises longer content from regular uploaders”

They also referenced Skam, Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why as some of their favourite TV shows.

Watch The Great YouTube Take Off with Dan, Phil and Sue.

BT Sport Presents: How to Win on Digital

  • Rio Ferdinand (BT Sport Pundit and Former Footballer)
  • Mike Norrish (Head of Digital at BT Sport)
  • David ‘Vuj’ Vujanic (YouTuber / Copa90)
  • Alexandra Willis (Head of Comms, Digital & Content at the All England Club)
  • Chaired by BBC’s Sonali Shah

A bit of background from the panel:

  • Copa90 drives 80m views a month on YouTube (1.4m subscribers)
  • Wimbledon attracted 220m social media video views during the fortnight of the competition (up 100m from 2016). The peak TV audience was 7m.
  • Sky announced a 30% increase in streaming last year (Sky Go etc.)
  • All members of the panel agreed that social is entirely complementary to TV.

BT Sport understands that it isn’t “cool”, it doesn’t have a “cool switch”, instead it relies on talent to drive authenticity, such as Rio Ferdinand. He is given free reign to publish BT Sport content on his own accounts and Rio regularly hosts Facebook Lives. Mike Norrish stated that he firmly believes “people follow people” and pushes the talent to lead conversation.

BT Sport looks to integrate social talent with TV, using internet talent to develop the TV offering and give it a different stance than usual. The panel did mention that should they look at two former players, if one had a significantly larger social following, they’d lean to them.

Rio Ferdinand uses social media to gauge reaction to an event or his own coverage, which he’ll then use to shape future content/programmes. This gives the programme a different feel and approach to the traditional TV output. So rather than purely covering Liverpool v Arsenal, for example, the team might look at a specific incident, or a rumour etc.

Premier League Tonight — schedule is driven through fans and social media (trending topics) This is more current and relevant and a move away from the normal broadcast approach. Brands need to be aware of the disruptive ability of tech/social.

Authenticity is key, yes there’s loads of data available, but rather than using data to get to the top of the algorithm, BT Sport understands the importance of being authentic and relevant, rather than chasing views on all content.

Everyone agreed that athletes don’t have to give you the time, so it’s important to make an interview different, make it something they’ll enjoy if possible.

During Wimbledon, content from the All England Club was viewed 220m times in the fortnight the competition ran. The peak TV audience was 7m, but these audiences are completely different and should be treated that way.

Rio Ferdinand:

“YouTubers are the rockstars for the youth of today”

Mike Norrish

“CVs aren’t important anymore, it’s about skills and creations online”
Watch How to Win on Digital with Rio, Mike, Alexandra, Vuj and Sonali.

Black Mirror Masterclass

  • Charlie Brooker (Writer)
  • Annabel Jones (Producer)
  • Chaired by Sue Perkins

The whole Black Mirror series started from “what if?”. They think about genres and then a hook to grab the viewer in. They can come up with comic ideas and never have to worry about going too far.

Charlie Brooker finds that focusing on domestic, safe settings but twisting them and making them very dark gives the most terrifying story.

“It’s all in the small personal stories”

The team loves the creative freedom with an anthology and also the freedom they get from working with Netflix. The short commitment of an anthology is “refreshing to the viewer”.

The drawbacks of anthologies include the difficulties surrounding ever changing sets, composers etc.

Every episode is filmed at a different time so they can manage all elements and not hand it over to multiple teams and lose control of the creative process.

They don’t rely on commercial music, instead they compose their own in order to transport the viewer to the feeling of another world, as with the San Junipero episode.

Netflix gives you the freedom to take on far bigger stories as they serve to a global audience. It also means they don’t have to fit to a broadcasting schedule, meaning they can adapt the duration of an episode as they see fit, rather than fitting to a traditional block. It does however mean they have to consider the pacing of an episode, due to a lack of adverts.

With Netflix, Charlie Brooker stated “it’s brilliant not having to worry about numbers”. It is much more about the reputation of the show/episodes, rather than the numbers watching. “The slow discoverability nature of Netflix works so well”.

Sometimes it’s the most simple ideas which are the best. Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller) provided the idea for a ‘treehouse of terror’ idea for the new series, which is incredibly simple but will grab the viewer from the off.

The fastest Charlie Brooker has written an episode of Black Mirror is just two days.

Watch Black Mirror Masterclass with Charlie, Annabel and Sue.

Thanks for reading!

If you liked this story, please hit the clap button 👏 or share it. Let me know if you were at the TV Festival or if you have any thoughts on my takeaways.

I’m Mark, a social media analyst at BBC Scotland 👋