Cheap thrills

After a short review session this afternoon one of my colleagues mentioned he finds it hard working when the weather outside is so great. Carl may have been making polite conversation, but this reminds me doing business with Channel 4 in the UK. We were supplying some mobile to TV integration software (and perhaps hardware, I don’t recall) for Big Brother – we did the text-to-win stuff at the bottom of the screen. The problem was, we never got any real money out of them – just some small bits of automation and the like. When we pressed them about this the explained it as follows:

“£1,500 ?? Why would we pay you real money when we can get interns to do it for free?”

Turns out that because working for one of the UK’s largest terrestrial broadcasters is perceived as fun and resumé building they don’t actually have to pay students, gullible partners, desperate suppliers or the like any real money. This makes it kind of hard to negotiate.

We were trying to sell them a system which would allow an operator to review incoming text or photo messages directly from mobiles, approve them, and schedule them for playout on-screen. The system integrated directly with the character-generator hardware to overlay the graphics and text prior to uplink, removing any possibility for operator error. We thought this was a bargain – a steal – for a state of the art mobile to TV platform.

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The producer’s view however was a little different. He could get as many media students as he wanted. For free. He could have one sit in his office looking at his PC and as the text messages appeared in the inbox, select a few interesting ones, write them down using a pencil on some scrap paper, then when he (or more often, she) had 10 or so, run over to the OB van where another free intern would type them into the character-generator by hand. When the correct time came for them to appear on-screen, she would hit the enter key. Voila our producer thinks. Perfect text-to-TV system for zero cost, plus the interns can run out for fags, cappuccinos, or to put money in the parking meter. And there’s always a chance that they’ll sleep with him at the afterparty.

We never stood a chance.

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