Did you watch Channel 4’s The Jump? No, me neither. But, from what I gather, the most interesting part about it was the insight into how "me too" commissioning (something that is prevalent at the moment) works.
You can almost picture the scenes as a commissioning editor sat down with a pad of paper and made the mighty mental leap that linked the relative success of ITV’s Splash! (again, a format that is unlikely to trouble the judges at Monte Carlo for any international TV awards) with the current Winter Olympics in Sochi.
This genius eureka moment resulted in the creation of a show in which celebrities of varying degrees of fame – the ilk of Nicky Clarke and Anthea Turner – made ski jumps of relative ease in a bid to be crowned champion before a largely disinterested public. The only problem that needed resolving was how to find the cash to entice Rav Wilding to consider speed-skating while being shouted at by an overexcited Davina McCall.
A little-known fact about The Jump, which limped along with audiences of around the two-million mark before being won by Joe McElderry (a man whose claim to fame comes from winning a singing contest some years ago – and, in our own parochial way, looking a bit like the Mindshare chief executive, Mark Creighton), is that we have Sir Martin Sorrell to thank for it gracing our screens. Or, more specifically, WPP’s Group M Entertainment.
A little-known fact about The Jump is that we have Sir Martin Sorrell to thank for it gracing our screens
We have been here before, of course. Older readers may remember the tragic case of Channel 5’s Emma Bunton-fronted talent show Don’t Stop Believing (Group M Entertainment certainly seems to have found a furrow that it enjoys to plough) – a series that ran on the channel as RTL was looking to offload it. The show bombed (a further theme that looks familiar) and ended up with the threat of legal action as one party sought to reclaim funds from another.
These funds, of course, originate from an entirely different source altogether – clients of Group M agencies (Mindshare, MediaCom and Maxus), which are presumably unknowingly funding TV programmes that you could argue don’t deserve to see the light of day. And what’s in it for them? Well, eventually, at the end of a rather long supply chain that sees Group M stump up the cash for TV shows that channels want but can’t afford to fund themselves and consequently take airtime value in return, cheaper spots.
On a business level, the model seems to make great sense. TV channels get the shows they want and advertisers are able to get access to cheaper ad space. But, as a longer-term solution to the creative deficit and the funding of the commercial TV sector, I’m really not so sure.