MEDIA: BEHIND THE HYPE - Chime shows its content credentials with Flipside

Flipside is entertaining but promoting channel surfing is a bit risky, Ian Darby says.

There has been seemingly endless talk about ad and media agencies becoming content providers and Bartle Bogle Hegarty et al have established content divisions.

The latest manifestation of this trend is Flipside TV, a programming concept that is the brainchild of the former HHCL & Partners creative Chas Bayfield and backed by Chime Communications.

Bayfield's original idea, creating a programme that acts as a human programming guide (presenters and guests sit around flipping through TV channels and picking out highlights for viewers), has been honed by Chime and its head of content, Jay Pond-Jones.

Pond-Jones, in association with the former director of Channel 4, David Brook, has brought in talent including Richard Bacon and James Brown to host the show. It launched last week on the new Sky Digital channel Nation 277 and airs Monday to Friday between 7.55pm and 10pm.

Chime is backing Flipside with shareholders including Bacon, Brown, Bayfield and Nation 277 itself. It is simple but surprisingly good, given that all you're watching is a bunch of entertaining people watching TV.

Pond-Jones says: "Flipside is born out of genuine behaviour - blokes in particular tend to flick through the programming guide, so there is this sense that with so many channels around they want this edited down."

Flipside's revenue model eschews traditional spot advertising for a three-fold revenue stream- telephone calls and text messages from viewers, promotions from advertisers and from sponsorship for different sections of the show.

Pilsner Urquell and Carphone Warehouse are already on board.

The show goes out live. It does have breaks but it runs trails for other programmes rather than ads. But is it particularly innovative and will its revenue model work?

Niku Banaie, a strategist at Naked Communications, says: "It is interesting in that it tries to encourage, or increase, channel- surfing behaviour. Its success will rely a lot on its presenters. The obvious comparison to make is with Sky's Gillette Soccer Saturday which you'd watch because the presenters are experts but I'm not sure people will want to hear the opinions of the Flipside presenters."

Flipside's revenue model is nothing new but at least it has identified this alternative route to revenue, vital given that it is tucked away on Sky's EPG and unlikely to command a big audience.

Perhaps Flipside's biggest impact will be to increase the propensity for viewers to channel surf, already an issue for advertisers. Banaie says: "It could be an advertiser's nightmare because, even more than is the case now, it will be difficult to tell how long viewers have been watching something. But if it turns out to be used as a creative tool to promote good TV, this could be a benefit."

Flipside is worth a look. Judging from its early shows, it is like Xfm mixed with the best elements of a lads' magazine (no surprise given that Bacon is an Xfm presenter and Brown a former Loaded and GQ editor). Though it may have a small impact on the propensity to channel surf, the TV big boys won't be losing any sleep just yet.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).