Stella (SKY 1, 2012)

Industry: TV

BSKYB

BSKYB (British Sky Broadcasting) is a satellite TV, internet and telephony provider for the UK and Ireland Formed in 1990 by a merger of SKY Television and British Satellite Broadcasting, it currently is the UK’s largest Pay TV provider, with around 10 million subscribers. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation currently has a controlling stake of the company. After facing increasing competition from other communications companies who have diversified into television provision through internet and telephone connections, BSKYB has had to react to retain its market share. It is now known as a ‘quad-play’ provider, meaning that it can supply conventional television packages, landline services, broadband connection and on-demand video content.

Valued at £12 billion, it is one of the UK’s largest and most profitable companies. It has used its financial muscle to purchase desirable content (e.g. sports coverage, television premier film rights and high profile US drama) to encourage more subscribers It offers a broad range of genre-specific channels – there are currently around 700 TV and radio stations offered as part of the complete SKY TV package. BSKYB doesn’t produce content for all of those channels, instead channel frequencies are let too different institutions, e.g. Comedy Central, FX, Crime & Investigation, CurrentTV, PBS, Watch, etc. In turn, those institutions will often commission or import content to show.

Technology

BSKYB has driven the UK television industry’s technological development e.g. Sky+ (PVR), Electronic Programme Guides (EPG), Interactive services, pay-per-view, HD broadcasting, 3D broadcasting.

Criticisms

Even before the phone-hacking scandal, Murdoch’s media activities have attracted criticism. There have been allegations of political corruption; Murdoch apparently tried to influence government policy to favour BSKYB and disadvantage the BBC. Murdoch launched a take-over bid in 2010 to gain ownership of the rest of BSKYB. Many politicians, media experts and members of the public felt that this would be very bad for the UK media as a whole, as too much power would be held by a single company. This was seen as a threat to media pluralism. However, Murdoch withdrew the bid in the light of the phone-hacking scandal. Many experts predict that he will re-launch the bid when the dust has settled.

Vertical Integration

BSKYB produces content for its channels, owns the means to broadcast them and hold patents on the distribution and exhibition technology. This means that it controls the entire process. This is known as vertical integration. A key criticism is that this model gives BSKYB too much power.

The Government created Competition Commission has been tasked to look at how BSKYB acquires the rights to screen films, broadcast major sporting events and the organisation of SKY’s EPG to assess whether they restrict competition.

SKY 1

SKY 1 is BSKYB’s flagship channel broadcasting in UK and Ireland. It is a subscription commercial broadcaster Launched as Satellite Television in 1982 Much of its high profile content is imported US broadcast fiction – e.g. The Simpsons, Hawaii 5-0, House, Glee, Fringe, NCIS Los Angeles, Modern Family, Terra Nova, etc. Commissioning – SKY’s whilst reality based shows such as Road Wars and Pineapple Dance Studios were popular with audiences, SKY’s self-produced fiction has not been generally successful, with domestic content often taking a back seat to the imported shows.

However, the success of an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (2006) reinvigorated SKY’s commissioning department, with a range of content being produced and rating highly for the channel. Examples include Trollied, Mount Pleasant, Mad Dogs, The Cafe and Martina Cole’s The Take.

Our Focus Text

Stella (SKY 1, 2012) A comedy drama (or drama-dy) written by and starring Ruth Jones. The channel has used the reputation of Jones to draw in viewers Premise – ‘Ruth Jones (famed for her role in Gavin & Stacey) will star in the comedy drama Stella, portraying family life in working class Wales. Co-written and executive produced by Jones, Stella tells the story of a 40-something mum juggling the demands of life, love and the next door neighbour’s horse. With a wealth of funny characters, Jones promises an authentic slice of the working class Welsh Valleys.’ (Source: SKY Advertisers Package)

Our studied episode, the second episode in the series was broadcast on Friday 13th January, 9pm. It was watched by an audience of 1.3 million

Audience Demographics

Age: 20-50 – The characters have a broad age spectrum, and its likely that decision was deliberately made to target a broad audience. There is much in the text that an audience within this range will be able to relate to.

Gender: Female – The gender of the protagonist as well as the subject matter focusing on themes of family and societal expectations of women suggest this is the target gender.

Socio-economic group: B,C1,C2 – Remember that SKY is a subscription service, so this excludes audiences who would be unlikely to afford it (D & E). However, it’s mainstream values and emphasis on ‘feel-good’ drama suggests that it’s aiming at a predominantly mainstream audience.

Audience Response

“[Jones is]… possibly one of the most likeable people on British TV, who is clearly the biggest draw here. She bobbed along under the radar for years, appearing in Nighty Night, Little Britain and various costume dramas, before she met Corden working on ITV’s Fat Friends. Stella seems to marks an upswing in her writing and performing since Gavin & Stacey. Judging by the high standard she’s set with her first solo venture, her best work may be yet to come.” Guardian Review 10/02/12 http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/feb/10/stella-have-you-been-watching [accessed 02/03/12]

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