Monday, 7 May 2018

2018 TV Drama exam

I'll post more on here as we go.

On page 4 of a 'teen tv drama marketing' Google I found a link to a great 4-page guide produced for this specific exam (the moodle pdf link, right, if this hyperlink doesn't work).

I've tried to split the extensive resources below into key themes. Here's one so good you can start with it, as it exemplifies one of your key challenges. Further down the post, however, you'll find bar charts on which social media young people actually use, the decline of traditional TV watching, even with second screening, and the potentially A-grabbing point on using influencers to gain a wider teen audience for your marketing efforts. (The possible downsides of teen social media use could be a great narrative theme too!). There's an award for such efforts too! The overall role of second screening also needs to be addressed - below is a point on how this arguably validates some of the controversial modern teen shows like suicide-themed 13 Reasons Why - Netflix was widely condemned for releasing the new series in the exams window.
Guardian feature.
The Shorty Awards.
An interesting look at how teen TV has gotten much darker (more realistic?) over time

Some thoughts on the briefing paper - ie, issues for you to research:


  • 'new original serial dramas' [aim to create a franchise but not from a franchise]
  • teen audience
  • any sub-genre
  • 'realistic + relevant representations of teens' ('The Serial Box is tired of the same old stereotypes of young people') [just like Class!!!]
  • for a streaming platform NOT a digital channel [not tied to advertisers = more creative freedom like HBO]
  • #serialtelevisiondrama
  • they are moving from content provider/distributor to content creation [great article on the TV drama boom]
  • why is serial TV drama so popular with audiences
  • extensive pre-launch digital marketing campaign [teasers, blogs, vlogs, across all social media...]
  • 'you should create characters, storylines + situations that a teen audience will engage in. ... creative, imaginative and, above all, entertaining' [so hybridise some comedy]

SCHOOL SETTING: GRANGE HILL: A long-running British teen drama (that also appealed to a wider children's audience, but was widely deemed unsuitable even for teens as it covered controversial issues like drug (heroin) addiction in a shocking way). The Wiki contents shows the type of things you're looking for: spin-offs, video game (and other 'old media' like books - pic above from here)

As Class, Buffy, The OC, Dawson's Creek, Grange Hill and endless other examples show, a school setting is a common, obvious one for teen drama, with exceptions necessitating either a context without schools (The 100) or older post-school teens (Misfits).

Once you focus on older (nearly 20) teens though, you move beyond what is intended for teen drama. Misfits would undoubtedly appeal to a teen audience, but 18-rated shows can't be marketed as teen drama.
A BBFC 15-rating is just about ok, but an 18 a definite no-no. However, you do need to show awareness of the growing 'edginess' of 'teen TV'; this article overviews many of the new shows reflecting this darkness of tone. This conservative, parental ratings, site can be useful too.

You could, though, like Dr Who, conceive of possible multiple linked series (just don't lose focus of the main one to pitch!!!) for multiple audiences linking younger, main teen, older teen + beyond:

  • The Sarah Jane Adventures for tweens
  • Dr Who main series - family audience from tween to adult
  • Class for 15-24s (though will clearly appeal to younger as well) [BBFC 12 or 15]
  • Torchwood for 15-34, with main characters all adults [BBFC 12 or 15]

ITV Player parental controls
Good examples? Class! Buffy. The OC. Dawson's Creek. Skins. Grange Hill. The 100. ... Its not hard to find lists. Here's some UPCOMING examples, with a clear focus on edginess + identity politics/diversity. Aussie examples. I suggest you pick 3 case studies to research, with 1 a little older (released years ago) and 2 modern with maybe a difference in their BBFC ratings.

Ideally stick to related sub-genre texts (sci-fi/fantasy/horror would seem a good bet!) for detailed case studies BUT reference any teen TV drama for wider examples, regardless of (sub-)genre.

Be clear, teen drama DOES NOT EQUAL FAMILY DRAMA. Teen dramas will be much edgier than a family drama.

Streaming or timeshifted viewing doesn't neatly fit the watershed concept, but age restrictions will still apply. You need to research what iPlayer (BBC), ITV Player and C4's All 4 player, (etc) do for parental restrictions.
You need more boradly to research these and the American (but increasingly global) names like HBO (Wiki), Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu - and be aware of Disney's plans to have an exclusive online subscription for ALL their content soon (so not more Marvel films/TV on Netflix), and niche examples like Sky also has an add-on streaming servuce, SkyGo. Here's a Guardian overview of some major players.

How have they impacted traditional TV channels?

Are audience figures available? (broadly, no! but subscriber numbers are)
Find the ITV guidance here. This is how they explain their 'G' rating:

Note the convergence from the explanation below: the parental control can be setup via an iOS app!

[see above examples of Class, Torchwood etc]
It can be useful to research why 18s are not appropriate for a teen audience; Angel (the Buffy spin-off) got C4 into trouble, and there have been issues even over 12-rated films. The text below comes from a long ppt of mine (top result from a google!), the 1st eg being about the movie Wolverine. While you'll likely look at a 12-rating (but could consider 15 so long as you are clear on the need for parental advice on content), you should be aware that even a 12 rated show can cause problems.
The watershed begins at 9pm; this aired from 6.55pm; This was a 12A film with further cuts by the broadcaster, C4; OfCom accepts BBFC age ratings, but does not allow all 12A films to air pre-watershed – can that be fair on adults?OfCom ultimately argued there would be 1000s of under 12s amongst the audience at this time, and so therefore the 12A rating, and further cuts made by C4, did not make this appropriate for pre-watershed airing – that C4 was therefore guilty of breaching OfCom’s legal duty to ensure “persons under the age of eighteen are protected”. It was important that C4 had screened family-friendly movies in this slot in previous weeks and did not provide a suitable warning about the violent nature of this film. But most of the audience was adult!This means they accept the argument that such content is harmful (the unproven media effects case) – and that the 9pm watershed can be seen not just as for 18 material but even for 12A-rated material! OfCom will also generally not allow the strong language that the BBFC’s 12 rating allows pre-watershed (not covered by this ruling but clear in their guidance). Is this fair for adults, even teens (12A!)?A similar ruling was made against ITV drama Jekyll and Hyde in 2016, shown from 630pm; OfCom rejected ITV’s claims that younger children would be going to bed or that it was clearly fantastical: "the scenes of fantasy … depicted relatively realistic and brutal acts of violence” There is long-term consistency at least: C4 was warned by the ITC over a 6-7pm broadcast of teen (but 18-rated) drama Angel 15 years agoWhen even the BBC Director General has described the watershed as outdated because of digitisation and timeshifting, can such restrictions continue to be justified?

It is quite common for pilot episodes to be lower age-rated than the main series, to try and hook in a wider, including younger, audience. The 100 is an example of this.

Crucial. Absolutely crucial. Think of the film assignment:

  • GAPS - consider secondary as well as primary (so, sort of 4 quadrant)
  • adult/s for secondary
  • balanced male/female in key roles, avoid simplistic old-fashioned male (only) hero
  • don't avoid heterosexuality, but be careful with heteronormativity - clearly doesn't fit the brief
  • ethnicity - avoid all-Caucasian casts
  • Class shows how to both use and subvert ethnic stereotypes (conservative African parent/s + daughter - but she's rebellious)
  • nationality - just like Hollywood with Asian/Chinese settings/characters (+ avoiding any refs to Tibet, so changing the Tibetan monk in Dr Strange to a white female Celtic monk), this can boost prospects of international sales
  • stars - the film company Working Title offers a good template for British productions: one well-known (sometimes A-list) US star for wide international appeal, including the lucrative US market; familiar locations (London, southern England countryside, the past: kings + queens/upper class/castles/mansions sell well - film eg Elizabeth, TV eg the execrable Downton Abbey). [BUT that risks alienating the UK audience, see E4 article below]
  • stars2: American Horror Story (Lady Gaga in her commercial prime) and The Wire (Method Man from Wu Tang Clan) are just 2 examples of big name music artists featuring long-term in TV series. Movie stars are increasingly also coming over to TV
Interesting example; the heroes aren't consistently heroic, while the love triangle is left as a minor side issue, and avoids showing the 2 females fighting over the 1 male. This article also notes that the show transcends the teen drama by not being afraid to kill multiple characters or be downbeat; episode 5 has a huge battle scene which kills many of what had been main characters, and leaves the remaining characters quite depressed and hopeless!
The most important element of Jason Rothenberg‘s series is in its deconstruction of the love triangle (Writer’s note: I really hate love triangles) in such an interesting way. Instead of portraying two girls fighting over one guy (or even vice versa), The 100 depicts two girls who didn’t know about each other coming to terms with the choices made by that one guy — without blaming each other. Since it isn’t the focal point of the show, this particular love triangle successfully moves past cliché status.
Even beyond the question of cliché, what’s fantastic about the love triangle is that the viewer doesn’t know whose side to take. Each character is both right and wrong, good and bad at the same time. These contrasting characteristics can be found in every single person on the show, which helps the viewers to see these characters as real people.
******there is enough detail here for main case studies if you add a little research******
You can go the Working Title style route, as I note above: an American cast member and enough British stereotyping to widen international appeal - but that risks alienating a British audience.
This article notes how E4, Channel 4's teen/youth channel, has succeeded where the BBC and ITV struggle, in winning a teen TV audience, not least by being distinctively British - so, not being as uber-glamorous as The OC or One Tree Hill. Maybe more in line with the likes of Aussie hit Heartbreak High.
No TV audience is harder to impress than teenagers. Savvy and fickle at the best of times, they have even more distractions, from Spotify to Wii, in today's fragmented media world. What's more, when teenagers do watch in this era of iPlayer and "catch-up" viewing, they are just as likely to click on a laptop rather than turning on the television set at a time decided by the schedulers.
But it would be wrong to think this new generation has given up on television. The teen genre, in particular, is enjoying a golden age, with a string of quintessentially British programmes which have won acclaim and a cult following.
These include the sci-fi hit Misfits, about a bunch of Asbo kids doing community service who have magic powers; the edgy sex-and-drugs drama series Skins, set in Bristol and featuring Dev Patel before he starred in Slumdog Millionaire; and the hilariously rude teenage boys' comedy The Inbetweeners.
While the three shows are quite different, each made by a different independent production company, they have a lot in common, too — not least that they have been commissioned by the same broadcaster, Channel 4, or more specifically its E4 entertainment channel.
here's a really important point (and UK TV regulator OfCom has been critical of the BBC's poor focus on teens):
In contrast, the BBC is having less impact with this demographic, while ITV and Five hardly bother.
And here's another! Verisimilitude is key (but a challenge, at least pre-watershed, given age restrictions) ... so the show employed some young writers to vet the script, especially dialogue but also clothing, props and music.
Yet as Campbell and director of television Kevin Lygo explain, C4 does go to great lengths to ensure teen programmes have an authentic, contemporary feel. This ranges from choosing the right language and clothes on-screen to finding the best music for the soundtrack and perfecting the advance marketing buzz online. It is essential, says Lygo, because "what they smell faster than a lot of other audiences is pretension".
Astonishingly, the teen son of a Skins producer, who advised the show on music, 'was singled out by NME as the 24th most influential figure to watch in the UK music industry'!!!

Here's another great point on representation, + differentiating from the US practice:
There are other ways to keep the shows looking authentic, says Campbell, such as using teenage actors rather than the American practice of trying to pass off a 35-year-old as a teen. For that reason, almost the entire cast of Skins was dropped after the second series and replaced with younger faces.
As mentioned earlier, contrasting with the usual uber-glamorous US casting is another point of cultural distinctiveness that boosts domestic (home market, UK) appeal:
Lygo thinks there is a gritty British reality and self-deprecating humour which Misfits, Skins and Inbetweeners all share. "We are a bit more warts-and-all, a bit more angsty than Americans. The OC [set in Los Angeles] was great but everyone was preposterously beautiful. If the actors were all supermodels [in British shows], I'm not sure we'd take it."
Indeed, the characters in Misfits all have slightly shoddy fantasy powers. "You think we're superheroes?" says one character, knowingly. "Nah, that only happens in America."
Has streaming made a difference? Hell yeah! And the impact + scale of social media engagement is clear - these shows are widely watched with second screens (tweeting, IMing, Instagramming, tweeting...)
Lygo says what is most extraordinary is the impact of the internet on the habits of this new generation: "We can really gauge how fans like it. These three shows go through the roof on online viewings and fan chatting. Other Channel 4 shows do OK but there's much less buzz online."
The ability of viewers to be able to watch on the web — one 14-year-old told me she was too young to have seen the first series of Skins but watched it all via the C4 website last summer — has dramatically increased the total audience. Younger viewers are "more selfish about what they watch and when they want it," says Lygo.
So a show such as Skins typically gets one million viewers per episode on its first transmission but reruns and online viewings have trebled that to more than 2.5 million. Much of the marketing and advertising is aimed online too.
Being a little bit edgy is key; the Beeb can be seen as quite po-faced or conservative with its content. While Class has some edge, it is in a different universe to the rawness of Misfits with its casual drug-taking (etc) characters. That also makes them (like Warp's social realist movies) harder to sell internationally, partially because many advertisers wouldn't be keen!
Lygo, Campbell and E4 boss Angela Jain can justly claim that their strike-rate with these teen shows has been pretty good. "E4 doesn't commission very much," explains Lygo. "Unlike, say, BBC3, which would commission 20 times as many shows, there is more riding on each commission for us so we do think long and hard about each one." When the BBC tries to woo teens, adds Lygo, there is a risk that it can be "a bit sober and po-faced".
But he also sounds a cautious note, pointing out that Skins, Misfits and Inbetweeners "almost certainly don't make money for the channel at the moment". Online advertising rates are lower and there has been limited success so far in selling the programmes overseas.
Digital media opens up more opportunities than just simply streaming.
There have been series made available to gorge on for a limited time period as a streamed boxset before regular, scheduled episode by episode release (eg the BBC's hugely successful Car Share).
Webisodes are now well established, seen with the likes of Battlestar Galactica.
Reddit AMAs, FB live streaming, Gogglebox-style shows - infinite options, including micro-payments (eg for pre-release/early viewing).
So Lygo says: "We have to be smarter about how we charge people." He is keen to introduce ideas such as micro-payments and "next-epping", explaining: "If you want to see the next episode early, you can pay." Then the episode would air for free a few days or weeks later.
New technology continues to open up astonishing possibilities. Channel 4 recently commissioned an online TV drama, Brink, made entirely by people who were recruited via the web.
Here's the marketing mag Campaign on the Skins digital marketing campaign:

Clearly part of a SECONDARY audience (as well as younger, aspirational teens and even tweens - with digitisation making age ratings hard to enforce), the adult audience is important; that Katherine Kelly character in Class, Giles in Buffy ... crucial to raising audience figures. This is arguably more important on non-ad-funded outlets like HBO, Netflix, and your exam platform!!! Advertisers need specific demographics to match their brands, but streaming sites need content to convince subscribers to keep paying their subscription fees. That includes content that adults' children may want to watch, making it a better value proposition - I'm sure some of you use Netflix, Prime or other subscriptions that your parents pay for.

This is a useful article to read on that topic:
 "Coming-of-age stories are classic tales that resonate outside of the target group. It's something that everyone goes through, and it's interesting to watch young people develop their own identity," explained Sherri Williams, Assistant Professor in Race, Media, and Communication at American University. "Milestones in our own lives are reflected in the show, and we watch with the wisdom we have now."

You can obviously easily enough research the range of Netflix's teen TV drama (and more), but it is an important example to contextualise the nature of your brief and the company that is asking for pitches. Here's one useful article:
Netflix is courting a demographic very different from the viewers of its mature House of Cards and Orange is the New Black series: teens and tweens. The streaming service is adding a handful of exclusive TV shows and movies to its lineup that target an audience that it says is often neglected, according to the New York Times.
Here's a couple of screenshots (+1 above) for any non-Netflixers (but there are regular articles on its content, eg this), and another useful article on how Netflix became the king of teen TV.

Millennials, or generation Z, are notoriously difficult to attract to most traditional media, not least TV, often preferring short chunks to full-length movies or TV episodes - but just as notably, often second screening (tweeting, IMing etc on tablet/phablet/phone while watching) when they do.  This is a much-written about concept; here's 1 eg (focused on social media). Here's a detailed trends analysis (USA) you could look for a useful stat from, such as this chart. You can find analysis of German, Luxembourgish, UK and others here.

I'll just throw this in, you might want to have a look: a 64 page review of a book on teen TV which raises too many interesting points to go into here. The direct link doesn't work, but clicking through from Google does. It is university level reading.
I also found this 2017 PhD thesis on teen TV:


Misfits example:
The first series was accompanied by an online viral marketing, on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. For example, in a British first, the characters Simon and Kelly tweeted during the initial transmission of each episode, with the content of the tweets provided by writers Sam Liefer and Ben Edwards, under the direction of lead writer Howard Overman and executive producer Petra Fried. These tweets and other website postings provided additional narrative material, and amongst other things did not ultimately reveal the identity of a key character who appeared only in episode six. Since then other characters have appeared, such as Rudy Wade and Alisha Daniels, as well as a fan-based "observer" character named "That Guy".[12][13] Additional strategic components included direct-to-YouTube video clips and an online game based on the show.[12]
This is an example from the very start of Internet as a mass medium. 1996 is a key year for that, with the launch of a now defunct Netscape browser, and the show launched in 1997. It was a pioneer of UGC/fan-made videos, as this Wiki attests.
Your digital marketing ideas should seek to encourage UGC/fan art/fan-made videos (etc).

The OC
Another example of mostly fan-made/UGC online: 'There are currently four Podcasts about The O.C. The original is PortlandCA, an O.C. commentary track hosted by Josh Hatfield, Josh Stout and Cory Hatfield. New episodes are posted on Thursday. The second is Do You See The O.C. That I See? hosted by Allie Russell and Jillian Gomez. The recurring theme of this podcast is burritos. The third is The O.C. Plus Three hosted by Cam, David and Meaghan. This is an episode by episode commentary podcast with Cam being the only one to have seen the show before. The fourth is We Used To Be Teens hosted by Bryony, Cal, and Josh. WUTBT is an episode by episode analysis podcast, and is largely punctuated by meme chat and tangents.' [Wiki]

BEBO: Social media/app maker turned content provider
Following the now common path of streaming sites and social media, Bebo has been producing its own teen dramas (some useful quotes in this article, previewed below). The form of these would be a good idea both as a spin-off and digital/social media engagement (sort of comparable to Battlestar Galactica's webisodes, which were only otherwise viewable through buying the DVD boxset)

Its worth being clear on which to prioritise - covering multiple is vital, but you can be clear on which have more reach with teen/youth audience. Here's 3 sample resources.

Statista (2017, on US teens and social media reach)
These two articles focus on the notion of INFLUENCERS - social/streaming media figures with large youth followings (but often completely unknown to adults). This would be an excellent way of showing a more sophisticated grasp of online marketing.
Teens in today’s economy have a massive buying power of $44 billion annually, but an attention span of only eight seconds. Because of the growing role of teens as consumers, advertisers are making bigger and bigger efforts to reach them. However, the limited attention span of the average teenager — which is shorter than that of a goldfish — makes this task increasingly difficult.
Influencer marketing offers brands a new way to communicate with their target audiences and has been particularly impactful for reaching members of Generation Z (the largely teen generation that includes individuals born between 1996 and 2010). This relatively new advertising strategy leverages the power of social media influencers to market a brand, product, or service to specific audiences.
As teens in Generation Z abandon traditional media, influencer marketing has become an essential strategy for reaching them. Here, we’ll explore why influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways to influence teenagers’ purchase decisions.
There are many similar guides to this floating around - this 8-point list seems pretty good to me, and could help you sharpen up your proposals for digital marketing.

Time's Most Influential Teens List
This notion of influencers is very much mainstream!

Influencers even star in Teen TV!
This example comes from a ranking site - no. 38 on its list of best teen TV.


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