Media: Double standards - Why recession has been rather good for pay-TV

Despite the downturn, TV channels such as Comedy Central and Living have found that their programming budgets have emerged relatively unscathed.

JILL OFFMAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, COMEDY CENTRAL

- Why the rebrand?

We rebranded because we believed we had grown as far as we could under the Paramount Comedy brand. Our goal was to become the destination for modern comedy in the UK. But the old name was getting in the way because people associated it with archive content and studio films. The name change allowed us to change the way we did everything and it has been incredibly successful. Our share has grown 50 per cent and our audience understands what we're about.

- How has the crisis in TV funding hit your budgets?

Because of the success of the rebrand, we've been relatively unscathed. It's always a bit of a crisis in pay-TV as you don't have the money the terrestrials do and you have to box clever. We never rode the gravy train and because of this we are good at finding ways to fund what we need on the channel. The studios and the production companies are more open to us than when there was more money around, so in many ways it's working for us.

- Is there a dearth of creativity in the UK when it comes to content, as channels rush to import more US TV programmes

I have heard that Cassandra song before and I just don't buy it. I moved here from Canada because this is the most creative TV market in the world and I don't see channels rushing to import US content. As broadcasters become more aware of their need to use content across many platforms, they are actually commissioning more not less. That said, we all want to see Mad Men and The Simpsons.

- Do you agree with James Murdoch's recent attack on the BBC's dominance of the TV landscape?

I think few people outside of Osterley or White City would entirely disagree or agree with his argument. It was a well-aimed polemic that will contribute to the debate about the appropriate level of power for a public broadcaster in a free market.

- Describe your typical viewer.

Our typical viewer is 28 years old, ABC1, male or female and probably lives in Clapham. Their favourite film is Zoolander and favourite book is The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time. Our viewer is very social, they've no neuroses about how many friends they have on Facebook, nice, fun but not too edgy. We know our audience forensically well, probably because they have an alarming resemblance to the team at Comedy Central.

- Describe some of the highlights on the schedule.

There are so many. Right now I am obsessed with The Office (Steve Carrell) and desperately looking forward to new South Park and Sarah Silverman. We are launching our first commissions with a new series featuring the gorgeous and mad Olivia Lee, which I think is brilliant, plus there are several more in the pipeline.

- What TV programme are you most hooked on and why?

I love 30 Rock and Californication. And sorry to sound like a media cliche, but I am obsessed by Mad Men. I have seen every episode and feel genuinely bereft when the season comes to an end. I am also watching The X Factor, but will have overdosed by the final.

JEFF DODDS, BRAND AND MARKETING DIRECTOR, VIRGIN MEDIA TV

- Why the rebrand?

Constant improvements in programming have created an opportunity for an in-line improvement in the on-screen branding. The reason for rebranding Living2 is different. When you add a "2" to a channel, you are effectively saying: "2, not quite as good as Channel 1." While in many cases this is actually true, in the case of Living2 it is not. Living2 is a very different channel to Living, its proposition is more about real people, and the programming has a much stronger factual bent. The rebrand for Living2 is about giving it a name, look and feel that is reflective of this.

- How has the crisis in TV funding hit your budgets?

In terms of marketing and communications budgets, it hasn't really. We are still supporting our key commissions and acquisitions; we still have the same amount of promotional airtime available and we are still investing in new and innovative ways of reaching our customers.

- Is there a dearth of creativity in the UK when it comes to content, as channels rush to import more US TV programmes

Importing shows is easier than commissioning them. But we firmly believe that broadcasters have a responsibility to give their customers what they want, and that means a combination of first-class imports as well as great home-grown commissions. Some of our biggest successes are commissions, such as Britain's Next Top Model and Four Weddings. There's no dearth of creativity here.

- Do you agree with James Murdoch's recent attack on the BBC's dominance of the TV landscape?

The key issue for me is the areas in which the BBC chooses to operate, and indeed how those choices are governed to ensure that they are in the public's interest. The recession has really amplified this issue, as the commercial operators exist in an advertising environment that is down about 15 per cent and, therefore, have to make tough choices about where and how they spend their budgets. The BBC, of course, has a budget, which is effectively ring-fenced in the form of the licence fee and this allows it to continue to invest at a disproportionate rate to its competitors. If not properly governed this can be extremely damaging.

- Describe your typical viewer.

Intelligent, articulate, attractive... Of course there is no such thing as typical in our world. We own Virgin1, which is a Freeview general entertainment channel, Bravo and Living, which populate either end of the male/female continuum of pay-TV. Throw in Challenge and Challenge Jackpot, our on-air gaming channel, and "typical" goes right out the window.

- Describe some of the highlights on the schedule.

Virgin1 - Chuck and upcoming commission Restaurant In Your Living Room. Living - the commissions Four Weddings and Dating In The Dark and the newly acquired Supernatural and Medium. Bravo - Deadliest Warrior and Sons of Anarchy.

- What TV programme are you most hooked on and why?

I consume probably more TV than anyone, much of it on the train on my journey to and from work, so I get hooked and unhooked on programmes pretty quickly. Current favourites include: Dating In The Dark (Living), True Blood (FX), Chuck (Virgin1), anything on Sky Sports, Deadliest Warrior (Bravo) and Supernatural (Living).

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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).