It was announced earlier this week that the next (third) series of US hit show Glee will be moving from it’s current home of E4 to one of BSkyB’s pay channels after Channel 4 backed out of a bidding war for the show. Sources claim that Sky have paid around twice what was currently being paid for each episode to it’s US distributor, Twentieth Century Fox. Current viewing figures for the second season have dipped slightly (to around the two million mark), but it is still one of the broadcaster’s biggest shows on the digital tv platform.
Many will not care about this decision, and those who hate the show may well cheer, but I think this a very worrying development and a sign of more bad news to come. I’ve really enjoyed watching Glee over the last couple of years, although I’m in no way a ‘gleek’ (a term coined to describe the show’s more fanatical fans). I don’t go out of my way to watch it, don’t rewatch it, and certainly won’t ever be buying any of the millions of cds and downloads that the show has spawned. It’s funny, entertaining, and the cast features some genuinely talented people (even if some need a little help from the auto-tune). However I won’t be giving BSkyB any of my hard earned money to see it, being a strong advocate for free-to-air television, and I won’t be buying any of the dvds. There’s too many other things vying for my cash.
As well as being a bad move for many tv viewers, it could also be very bad news for a music industry already in hard times. It’s been well documented how the show has helped boost sales of any artist featured in the show, and anyone taking a look at the music charts over the last couple of years will have noticed a slew of Glee tracks and compilations clogging them up. Just this week, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours hit number two on the iTunes album chart, after their music was featured in Monday night’s episode. It’s become an industry of it’s own, and a merchandise juggernaut.
And that effect can’t fail to be affected by putting the show out of reach to many on pay channels. Sky shows rarely get viewing figures anywhere close to that Glee is attracting on E4, except for the odd live football game between high profile teams. And when a similar thing happened to US show Lost a few years ago, it too saw an instant drop in it’s viewing figures. Add to that the case that many shows start to dwindle around a third season anyway, and the omens for it (here in the UK) are not good.
BSkyB now have so much money at their disposal, we are going to see more and more of this type of aquisition going on in the near future. I’ve already mentioned Lost, and even more recently we saw the same thing when they bought the exclusive rights to Mad Men and the entire HBO catalogue for BSkyB’s Sky Atlantic channel, and also with House from Channel 5. Some people will say it’s a free market, and argue that the market decides these prices and worth, but I can foresee a time within a few short years when you won’t be able to find any decent US imports on free-to-air television. No-one else will be able to compete, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or whoever. I for one think that’s a very bad thing, and a sad day for British tv.
Here’s a little video from YouTube taken behind the scenes at last year’s “raunchy” GQ Magazine photoshoot that caused quite a bit of controversy…