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FINAL FURLONG OF THE EXHIBITION SEASON by Peter Savage W ell, here we are again, approaching the final furlong of exhibition season – having back-to-backed BVE and CABSAT, and now planning NAB – and, yes, my liver feels as though it is approaching the final fence at the Grand National. I suspect my wife feels entitled to file for divorce on the grounds of me seemingly having disappeared like Lord Lucan, but it is all in the name of work – honest. To prove it, here is what I have learned so far from the show circuit and what I am looking forward to in Vegas. already kicked in. Demand was strong and pre-NAB confidence was high. This year has a very different feel to it. In the last few weeks, many more companies in the TV or film business have been forced to seek some form of protection from creditors. The general feel is that, despite all the talk about tax incentives bringing new business flooding back, the industry is on its knees and needs a significant injection of work in the next couple of months to help it get back on its feet if it is to get anywhere near the halcyon days of last year. Why is this? Well, for one, the Government has tried to entice TV productions back into the UK through some very acute tax incentive schemes based around film and TV investment. Looking at my favourite bellwether of the industry – ITV – I see that its results are great, its share price has almost doubled in the last year, its revenues are up in every strand of its business and, in the first quarter of 2013, its advertising revenues were up 18 per cent. So how come no-one else is having this feel good factor? Just like Beaujolais Nouveau? In my view, the shows are making the case for 4K – it has arrived, a bit like Beaujolais nouveau. When the French launched the Beaujolais nouveau craze in the late 1980s, we all thought “What is all the fuss about? Isn’t it just another red wine hype?” yet the event continues year after year. And so it is with 4K – although it is here to stay, it is a case of “what’s the point at the moment?” It has come too soon, and is too driven by consumer manufacturers with no real demand for the product. That is a harsh verdict on such a great format (which is more than can be said about the red wine). … and like an English summer With NAB looming, will it be another landmark year? I have not seen a whole new influx of cameras at the other shows so, in technological terms, it could be rather a damp squib. However, shows also define the heartbeat of the industry and this is what makes me most concerned at the moment: last year, in February and March, the summer season had Harshly competitive For once I would say that it doesn’t make any sense, unless it was because broadcast was fortunate to have the Jubilee and Olympics last year, that we completely misread the crystal ball. Perhaps we are now suffering from what all of other industries in the UK have had to cope with for the last two years: slow growth in a harshly competitive economy. There is, however, another sting in the tail. As last year was so good many companies continued to spend well into the late summer, expecting 2013 to be as good as 2012. Then the Olympics happened and took out a large chunk of anticipated winter business. In that situation – with higher bills and repayments, and kit that is not working – the economic model can suddenly turn and that is when companies fall into trouble. Waving the flag In summary, as we prepare to head stateside for NAB, I’d like nothing more than to see plenty of good news stories around deals, investments and partnerships that would indicate a return to confidence, as well as companies that have found innovative ways of making money in a harsh economy. Looking ahead, the suggestion that doing business in Britain is better than doing business anywhere else in the world has an element of truth to it, as we have a pool of talent that is second to none. This might sound unnervingly jingoistic but, in a country that supposedly makes very little but sells great services, for what else can we wave our flag? Positive answers on a postcard, please, to Peter Savage on peter.savage@azule.co.uk To comment on this article, do contact me at peter.savage@azule.co.uk and/or write to the TV Bay editor. To read other articles in this series, visit www.azule.co.uk. 32 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE TV-BAY076APR13.indd 32 26/03/2013 16:47