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TV Lab: a lifeline for public broadcasters?

In the past, if you wanted to express your love or loathing for a TV show, you had to write a letter to the programme makers, remember to post it and wait six weeks for a reply, if you were lucky.

It’s a bit easier now.  Many TV programmes encourage their viewers to join a Facebook page or share their opinions on Twitter.  Part of the fun of watching a show is now seeing what other viewers are saying about it in real time.  As a programme maker, if you are brave enough, you can see what people think of your show as it goes out.

But isn’t it a bit late once the show is on air? Wouldn’t it be better if we asked the audience directly what they think of a show before it’s commissioned?

This is the bold thinking behind the Dutch ‘TV Lab’ experiment to air a season of cutting-edge pilots and ask a viewing panel to help decide which should be picked up for a series.

The concept was dreamed up by Nederland 3’s Roek Lips, who launched the project in 2009 and has now, with the help of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), started to roll out the idea across Europe.

He describes the project as the “future way of interacting with the audience, providing them with the programmes they want”.


Members of the EBU who wish to shake up their schedules are asked to contribute at least one pilot for the pool.  So far, ZDF Neo, VRT and RTV Slovenia are all on board.

The Dutch public broadcaster has created a tool called ‘TV Lab Buzz’ which analyses audience reactions to the different pilots by gathering information from Twitter, Facebook likes, website hits and online visits.

Bettina Brinkmann, Head of EBU Arts, Entertainment & Fiction comments “This is only the beginning – especially for younger audiences who want their views to be heard. We can obtain an increasingly clear picture of what people want to see on TV.”

Budgets for public broadcasters are under pressure across Europe.  The BBC has just been forced by the UK government to slash its spending by 20% and 2000 jobs are to go.

With less money available, it is essential for public broadcasters to commission wisely and provide the programming that its young viewers actually want to watch.  By creating a TV Lab event, broadcasters can engage directly with their audience, attract huge publicity to the channel and help generate an exciting stream of contemporary formats.

So come on Channel Managers – don’t phone your friends or take a chance on 50:50 – it’s time to ask the audience!

For further information about the Eurovision TV Lab Bettina Brinkmann, Head of EBU Entertainment, Fiction & Arts:brinkmann@ebu.ch

Keri Lewis Brown

Keri founded K7 Media in 1998 as an independent organisation providing media intelligence to broadcasters, producers, distributors and advertisers. Keri has driven the company’s growth from breakaway startup to a leading media consultancy providing insights to an 80-strong client base across the world.

Before founding K7 Media, Keri was Head of International Sales for production company, Action Time, where she led the rapid expansion of international format sales, making her one of the first to explore the potential of global programming. Keri is based at K7 Media’s headquarters in Manchester and since March 2015 has served on the board of FRAPA (Format Recognition and Protection Association), which aims to protect the intellectual property of television formats across the globe.

Contact Keri via keri.lewisbrown@k7.media.