Digital multichannel television has brought about a major shift in power at all levels. Sports events can make clear to a broadcaster that it’s the competition’s graphics that tell you what the score is and the hits 90s comedy Friends is so prevalent that it’s difficult to recall the name of the channel that actually screens it.
Then there are the personalities. Dan Snow, a familiar face on TV screens for 20 years was able to establish an on demand history channel, History Hit TV, which combines an audio podcast with video on demand, for a monthly £5.99 subscription.
One could imagine a young David Attenborough – who was running BBC2 at the advent of colour TV – doing much the same thing.
Disappointed at the amount of content that ended up on the cutting room floor, Snow described to delegates at Future Vision: DTG Summit 2020 how he and his colleagues shot ten times the material that could actually be used, only for that hour to be broadcast opposite a football match and for no one to watch it.
Snow looked at apps on iPads, experimented with the old WAP internet, while looking at a way to “bypass the gatekeepers and take content out to everyone around the world”. He says his Road to Damascus moment came while making a film about the Gallipoli landings. “It happened there was great mobile coverage there for 4G, early 4G, over that part of Turkey. I was able to broadcast, something a week before would have required a SAT truck and a crew of people and a lot of money.”
In all of the process, Snow says he never lost his belief in television as a storytelling platform. While considering that he had come to podcasting far too late, Snow was reminded of a Chinese expression. “Of course the best time to plant the tree is 10 years ago, but it is also now”. He said that creating History Hit TV had freed him from commissioning editors who had told him where to go and what to do.”
Video has been combined with a regular podcast that has been able to expand the amount of coverage that would be given to a particular topic on a linear channel. Along the way Snow has found out information, data, on his podcast listeners and then engaged through WhatsApp.
Now with more than 100,000 subscribers, in August Snow sold the three-year old HistoryHitTV to Little Dot Studios, backed by Fleabag and 1917 producer All3Media, itself a joint venture between Discovery and Liberty Global.
Snow describes Little Dot as “phenomenal people” and a “huge British success story”. But he also has credit for Simplestream, the company that helped set up the technical platform on which HistoryHitTV was built.