I was watching a show last night about the Reunion of Fry and Laurie : Two national treasures according to the narrator. We’d Sky-plussed it ages ago and finally got round to watching it.
We were looking forward to it. I got about half an hour in and then gave up. For the first twenty-two minutes the show consisted pretty much exclusively of recaps, forward tasters (forward caps?) of what was coming next and reminders of what the overall theme of the show was about. It was exhausting. It was exhausting and boring. It was exhausting, boring and a little bit insulting of my intelligence and attention span.
Presumably this is part of the trend debated in Campaign’s Round Table Discussion headed “Engagement: The Seven Minute Challenge”.
The notion of the Seven Minute Challenge is that whereas once you had to teach in thirty minute instalments because “that was the average time between ad breaks” according to Edward Weatherall from the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing, now you need to “change things every seven minutes” because of the diminution of attention span owing to people’s reliance on gadgets.
(Earlier in the column Sue talked about watching Fry and Laurie on Sky Plus… Stay tuned while she goes on to make a point about storytelling).
I don’t think this can entirely be correct can it? I have witnessed (haven’t we all) people (even very young people with supposedly more gadget addiction) enraptured by story-telling that goes on and on for much longer than seven minutes. It may be true that if you have nothing interesting to say you need to change your message, but in that case seven minutes is far too long. If its great story telling on the other hand… well the last Harry Potter film was over two hours long.
Look though at the likely demographic for a Fry and Laurie reunion. Possibly you might acknowledge that they are the type of individual that might manage to concentrate for more than ten minutes on something .
Finally there is the nature of viewing these days. Presumably the original reason for constant recaps every five minutes is to entice people in who have joined the programme late (no need to feel you’ve missed anything) and the role of the “forward-caps” is to encourage you to stick with the programme if you’re a channel hopper by nature. However if you’ve Sky-plussed something that you’re looking forward to seeing then both those reasons become irrelevant.
There are two types of shows that are doing well. Those that can’t be missed because they’re live event viewing (X Factor, Football etc). Those that have strong story telling narratives (a Downton Abbey for example).
There is only one way to conduct business if you are showing content. You must show content that you believe people will enjoy. In the age of Sky Plus (and other appointment to view, or catch up viewing technologies) the recap, forward cap and general over-cap are redundant.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your continued attention.