TX. Presentation. Playout. Whatever you call it, they’re the people responsible for taking the programmes, promos, adverts and continuity, packaging it all up, and making sure you have something to watch on your television… with the absolute bare minimum of breakdown captions. Yet oddly enough, despite the interest in the subject on many forums, there’s really very little writing online about what it’s actually like to work in transmission.
Last year, I left Channel 5 TX, having been there for a year and a half – and I thought people might be interested in a few details. What the bloody hell do we actually do all day, apart from sit and watch telly? Here’s your answer.
A few points first, however. Don’t expect any dirt to be dished – much as I’m sure it’d be entertaining to hear me whinge on, it’s not gonna happen. Also, there are certain confidential things which I’d love to be able to talk about, but can’t because… well, they’re confidential. Sorry about that. I can guarantee, however, that none of that affects what I have to say too much. Whilst some of the stuff I’ve had to leave out is really interesting, I think the below still represents the job pretty damn well.
Finally, and I can’t stress this enough: the below is just my perspective on the job. In no way whatsoever does it represent the views of Channel 5, or any of its partner companies.
Right, let’s get started, shall we?
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This is the tale of one of the more ridiculous things that happened to me when I worked in Channel 5 TX.
Saturday, 14th December, 2013. I’m sitting at home, preparing for my first day back in work after a short illness. It’s live BAMMA coverage that evening – mixed martial arts, which usually involves the floor being entirely smeared with blood by the end of the night – and I decide to have a look at BAMMA’s Twitter feed to see what’s going on.1
So, I scroll down their feed… and something catches my eye. Something horrible. I reproduce it below – but I’ve had to blur out the relevant bits, I’m afraid. I’m sure you’ll understand when I tell you what they are.
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The other day, I did a post about how much I loved a series of promos Channel 5 showed last year.1 It reminded me of the above: a promo that – as far as I’m aware – Channel 5 never actually broadcast.
It’s hardly surprising, really. I loved the Ask an Aussie promos because they were perfectly targeted and entertaining in their own right. The above promo cross-promotes – of all things – The Walking Dead and… The Wright Stuff. It’s one of the most entertaining TV promos I’ve ever seen… but how the bloody hell would you schedule it? The tone is entirely unsuitable for daytime, but it doesn’t really make that much sense to promote a daytime talk show late at night either.
But then, that’s the fun. The total incongruity of it all. Any promo which ends with Matthew Wright surrounded by a horde of killer zombies has to be worth something. (It has some particularly good sound design, too.) Just try to ignore the fact that – as with a lot of their US dramas – Channel 5 went on to drop The Walking Dead from its schedule. Ahem.
Fun fact: the breakdown loop that features during the promo is the actual breakdown loop Channel 5 uses if there is a problem, and the announcer is one of the actual Channel 5 continuity announcers. A bit of artistic licence is used for how quickly that announcement would make it to air, mind…
Here’s something I doubt many people reading this site will have seen: a Channel 5 filler from 2013 called Ask an Aussie.1 (There’s also a shorter version on YouTube, which has worse picture quality but includes some funny sections the above version lacks.)
For a start, this wins points simply for being a specially-shot promo, rather than just being a montage of clips stuck together or using EPK material. I don’t wish to denigrate the art of putting together promos using show clips too much; done well they can be absolutely incredible. But some of my favourite promos have come from using specially-shot material, and it just doesn’t happen enough these days for drama and comedy. Maybe the trailer for Psycho is the most famous example, but what sitcom wouldn’t benefit from something like this? Or this? It’s a shame so many programmes rely on just clip-based trailers these days.
OK, so maybe this promo isn’t quite in the same league as those examples. But it’s still lots of fun, and rather more effort than most people would expect Channel 5 to go to.2 What I especially love about it is that it does something else that’s not done enough these days: it ties the whole channel together. Of course it’s ostensibly promoting the channel’s two big Australian soaps, Home & Away and Neighbours. But it also manages to beautifully incorporate loads of other Channel 5 shows: Robson’s Extreme Fishing Challenge, Cowboy Traders, Benidorm ER, Eddie Stobart. A proper, Channel 5 brand trailer… without just sticking together clips from a load of shows with a Channel 5 logo slapped on the end.
Of course, the intention with this this is all about building brand loyalty with the channel, etc, etc, etc. Crucially, though, the makers of the promo don’t forget that in order for this to work, it has to be entertaining in its own right. As all the best adverts are. Three minutes of fun, which also does its intended job at the same time.
Something original, that grabs your attention, with actual effort put into it, and is entertaining at the same time? I wish more TV promos were made this way.