BBC channels take flight

Today marks the arrival of three new channels on subscription television: 111 Hits (Triple 1 Hits), BBC Knowledge and CBeebies -the latter two operated by the BBC.

Until now BBC had the UK TV Channel, BBC World News and BBC HD.

TV Tonight spoke to Managing Director Tony Iffland and Brendan Dahill, Director of Television about their newest Australian brands.

The CBeebies Channel (Ch 705) is aimed at kids under 6, but places particular emphasis on interactivity, with three blocks of programming: Get, Set & Go, Discover & Do and Bedtime Hour. As well as having programmes already popular on the ABC, including Teletubbies, Tweenies and Charlie and Lola, 70% of the shows are new.

“The key to a successful kids’ channel is ‘are the parents prepared to watch it with the kids?’ If they are then you know you’ve got a hit,” says Dahill.

“One of the shows we’re really excited about are 3rd and Bird, about a community of birds that live on a branch in a tree. The animation is just to die for. The characters are really perfectly created, really warm and friendly. One of them is called’ Muffin Love Bird’, so it’s got names that kids will really warm .

“At its essence the show is about singing, imagination and word play. They way they resolve a situation is to sing a song about it.”

Get Squiggly is another new title, about an animated teddy bear.

“His world is totally black and white,” says Dahill. “There’s nothing in his world unless he draws it, so his world is his imagination. So to start the show we encourage kids to get a pen and paper so they can join in and create their own stuff. It’s about motor skills.”

From 6pm the channel moves into a wind-down, actually encouraging kids to turn off the TV, brush their teeth and go to bed. It ends with a clip of a purple sky, southern cross and yellow blob characters who push out lots of ‘zzzz’s.’

“We take our responsibility as a broadcaster, just as I take my responsibility as a parent –really seriously,” he says. “So the whole environment on CBeebies from 6pm to 7pm is about encouraging kids to slow down, to sit and listen. It’s much more passive, whereas the rest of the day is far more interactive.”

In the UK the CBeebies channel is run by an Australian, Michael Carrington.

“The thing that he’s brought to CBeebies is probably a slightly more global perspective, to the programmes he’s commissioning. They’re not quite so quintessentially British. That universality of appeal has certainly worked.”

BBC Knowledge (Ch 619) which launches at 5:30pm, is a factual channel built around five key strands. From 7:30pm it has themed evenings across weekdays: The past (Mondays), The World (Tuesdays), People (Wednesdays), Business (Thursdays) and Science and Technology (Fridays). Around 50% is first run in Australia.

Programmes will include Terry Jones’ Barbarians, The Apprentice, Tribal Wives and Top Gear.

Dahill says the channel won’t affect programmes which already screen on other Australian networks, pointing out there are 30,000 hours of programming produced every year by the BBC.

“The ABC will still have access to all the content it’s had access to. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t buy all the stuff the BBC produces,” he said.

According to Iffland, there is also an intention to look at adding local content to the channel some time in the future. As a drama channel, UK TV already has to spend a proportion of its budget on local production, having recently produced Make or Break. Adding CBeebies and BBC Knowledge to their stable of 3 channels, gives the BBC a strong footing in the Pay TV industry.

“The five channels will sit very nicely together as a portfolio,” says Iffland. “Which is what you have to have in a fragmented media world. You need the ability to operate across a number of different genre, to build and retain audience.”

Despite other children’s channels in Australia, Iffland is pragmatic about the introduction of CBeebies.

“Subscription TV is all about choice,” he said. “Choice for kids, choice for parents, we’ve grown the category, grown the market, given people even more reasons to subscribe. We don’t look at it as competitive thing. The whole thing about subscription TV is watching what you want, when you want, where you want it.

“It’s all about choice and empowering the consumer.”

18 Comments:

  1. im looking to change to austar but their is one thing thats holding me back, foxtel which have been a loyal user for over 5 years have excelled into the uk style aussie based tv style with new fucntions and new channels, why is it that a aussie creator channel cbeebies is not on austar? thats the only thing im holding off, i wanted to set up 4 boxes and one for the kids, and cbeebies craps over disney and nick at respectful prospects of learning, cbeebies is by far a educational channel for kids, if you cant provide the channel then i’ll take my box to the bush, its worked their last week as tested. but that will be your loss austar. let foxtel just crap on your boss… austar boss prob have cbeebies for his kids on austar box

  2. “Andy on November 2nd, 2008 5:47 pm And not all rosy as a foxtel customer.. no BBC Knowledge for those of us in a satellite serviced apartment building.. yet another channel we miss out on while still paying the same price cable customers pay! i think it’s about time foxtel offer a discount for those of us on the dodgy satellite service.”

    I was wondering why I couldn’t get BBC Knowledge but hadn’t contacted Foxtel yet – Damn It! I’m so sick of missing out on channels because my building uses a satelite dish this is ridiculous when I live in Sydney CBD!

  3. I emailed austar and this is the reply :

    Thanks for your email. The ads you have viewed relate to programming on the Foxtel Channel and AUSTAR apologise that this was not made clear on the ad.

    AUSTAR doesn t have any current plans to launch either channel 111, Cbeebees or BBC Knowledge although some of the channels on our existing line-up have taken this opportunity to refine their core programming.

    Arena and FOX Classics, for example, offers fantastic programming from years gone by. Now they are able to add even more classics from the 60’s and 70’s with the addition of several new shows such as Hart to Hart, The Odd Couple, Lost in Space. We ve included a list below.

    Arena is building upon its amazing success since it was relaunched some months back. Fantastic programs such as Project Runway, Shear Genius and Top Chef will now be joined by a range of new programs that focus on personal style, including a whole block from The Style channel with shows such as Dress My Nest, Style Her Famous, and Modern Girls Guide To Life.

    In saying all this, we are always looking for new content and the 100 or so channels we presently have on offer provides our customers with fantastic programming, offering something for everyone, both the old and the new with many premiere shows never been seen on free to air television.

    New programming coming to FOX Classics and Arena

    FOX Classics:
    The Odd Couple
    Hart to Hart
    Mannix
    Lost In Space
    The Addams Family
    The Saint
    Petticoat Junction
    The High Chaparral

    Arena:
    Cristina s Court
    One Tree Hill
    Instant Beauty Pageant
    Style Network Block: Dress My Nest / Style Her Famous / Modern Girls
    Guide To Life
    Style By Jury

    We trust that these will let you enjoy your AUSTAR even more.

  4. And not all rosy as a foxtel customer.. no BBC Knowledge for those of us in a satellite serviced apartment building.. yet another channel we miss out on while still paying the same price cable customers pay! i think it’s about time foxtel offer a discount for those of us on the dodgy satellite service.

  5. Was really looking forward to the new 111Hits channel on Austar as it has been heavily advitised for the past month or so. Am not happy with Austar for not putting a disclaimer up saying we cant get the new channel. Will not be renewing my subscription once it is up.

  6. I like BBC Knowledges idea of changing the program genre each night, thats what i liked about howto as it does the same.

    Cbeebies should share space with CBBC. Cbeebies can run from 7 to 6 pm and CBBC from 6 onwards.

  7. The only thing worse than being an Austar customer is being an Austar from Telstra customer.Austar held back Fox Sports 3 etc for months as they tried to screw Telstra.

    A company who ironically owns 50% of Foxtel that provides Austar with it’s products.

    Looking forward to the day when we can have some choice in who is our pay tv provider….Austar will go out of business in a flash.

  8. Thanks David, pity we don’t get it today, it would have been nice to see some of those shows again.

    BTW weird how 111 is in 16×9 with a high percentage of the shows made in 4×3 where as TV1 has a number of newer show in which are 16×9 but they are stuck with 4×3.

  9. “From 6pm the Cbeebies channel moves into a wind-down, actually encouraging kids to turn off the TV, brush their teeth and go to bed. It ends with a clip of a purple sky, southern cross and yellow blob characters who push out lots of ‘zzzz’s.”
    What a clever idea by the BBC! But does that mean Cbeebies shuts down every night or 7pm, or other programming takes over (similar to Nickelodeon and Disney Channel)?

  10. I wonder how many Austar/Optus customers will be angry over this? Showcase launched on Austar at the same time as Foxtel and I think a few channels over the past few years launched on both platforms at the same time but this is a step in the wrong direction and a good way to lose customers. Austar should launch those channels today with Foxtel. The longer Austar waits, the more angrier the customers and the more likely they will cancel their subscription.

    The only decent services in regional areas are ABC and SBS along with 7QLD and Prime in some areas.

  11. yep, pay tv has three new channels, unless u live in the regional areas of australia and have to have Austar, who, of course, have decided not to take the channels. So when the story says pay tv it should just say Foxtel, over 700 000 subs wont be seeing these channels

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