Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: How to Snuff out Television Icons

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: How to Snuff out Television Icons

Article excerpt

Television programmes come and go, but, by any standards, it has been a heavy few days for TV nostalgia.

On Sunday, Sir Jimmy Savile turned out the lights on 42 years of Top of the Pops on BBC Two on Sunday to the consternation of several generations of 'pop pickers', just after the picture of president Jed Bartlet was finally removed by a handyman on The West Wing.

The decision to axe the US show is the stranger of the two. The eight-year administration of Jed Bartlet comes to an end, to be replaced by the new era of his Democratic successor, Matthew Santos. What better chance to refresh the story line with a raft of new characters, and no need to kill off any existing ones. Yet the possibility of eight more years of a ground-breaking TV series has been snuffed out.

Haven't these people heard about the importance of developing and investing in brands over the long term? Maybe they were afraid of upsetting the advertisers.

Of course, in the case of Top of the Pops, its declining viewing figures could not be ignored. In its heyday in the 70s, it pulled in audiences of 17m, but, by its final days, this had slumped to little more than 1m viewers.

But, shouldn't more effort be made to resuscitate and reinvent TV icons?

Consider the folly of Michael Grade's decision to axe Dr Who, and all those missing years before it was decided the Daleks were not so passe after all.

The trouble is that it is much easier to get rid of programmes that have seen better days than wrestle with what to do to make them relevant to a rapidly-changing world.

In fact, the BBC has a well-honed procedure for killing off TV icons, designed to head off viewer upset or opposition.

First, announce the programme is moving from BBC One to BBC Two, thereby slashing the audience. Naturally, this is accompanied by a relaunch, which removes any sense of the familiar and helping to undermine loyalty.

It also helps to ensure that the relaunch is botched, although, the audience can sometimes unaccountably rise despite everybody's best efforts.

If this happens, plans must quickly be put into place to stop events spiralling out of control. Here, the judicious leak works wonders. …

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