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Welcome back, Dr Who

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Digital archiving of TV shows is expensive. But if you get their loyal fans to pay for downloads...


When the BBC launched an appeal for five lost episodes of Dad's Army, two from 1969 turned up thanks to a private collector. Dr Who wasn't so lucky - to date, 109 episodes are still missing, including the debut episodes of the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton.

These and other television programmes have fallen victim to the pitfalls of video archiving. In some cases tapes were recorded over to save money, while some TV companies failed to retain rights to repeat them. But now BT Broadcast Services (BTBS), the broadcast and media solutions arm of BT, has launched a service providing the archiving and storage of content to television companies on an outsourced basis.

Digital archiving of broadcaster content, accepted by industry insiders as the future, has been slow to take off due to the extremely high costs of transferring content from tape to a digital format.

But now that they are able to charge people to download footage from their archives, commercial broadcasters and content owners can recoup the cost of digital archiving.

Seeing the possibility of creating a new revenue stream, Carlton has agreed to a three-month trial of the service with BT Broadcast Services. Two hundred hours of Carlton footage have been logged digitally, including most of the Spitting Image shows.

Anybody interested in downloading or simply viewing clips of programmes from Carlton's back catalogue can go to BT's website, mediareel.com. Users will be asked to register onsite. They will then be able to view archived footage clips free of charge, but would have to pay to download whole shows.

Roy Davies, head of broadcast operations for Carlton's Central franchise, says: "It appears to be working well so far. This is, of course, only a three-month trial, but in that period we are hoping to increase clip sales."

BT's system, which has only been operational for six months, is unusual because BTBS will incur all set-up and running costs for the online digital archive, sharing with the content owner the revenues from fees charged to people who download material. "We have given ourselves a three-year window to break even," explains David Jamieson, head of media solutions at BTBS.

The hope is that the system will enable broadcasters and content owners who sign up to save money by eliminating storage costs (currently about oe40 per tape, a year), save time by allowing staff to access all content without having to trawl through old videos and make money from download charges.

Initially, users are likely to come from television production companies, but the hope is that in the long-term consumers will also use the service to buy clips from favourite shows.

With an estimated 44m hours of archived television content held around the world, BT Broadcast Services is convinced its latest venture will be money well spent.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Leader, Nick (2003-10-07). Welcome back, Dr Who. Financial Times p. 14.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Leader, Nick. "Welcome back, Dr Who." Financial Times [add city] 2003-10-07, 14. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Leader, Nick. "Welcome back, Dr Who." Financial Times, edition, sec., 2003-10-07
  • Turabian: Leader, Nick. "Welcome back, Dr Who." Financial Times, 2003-10-07, section, 14 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Welcome back, Dr Who | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Welcome_back,_Dr_Who | work=Financial Times | pages=14 | date=2003-10-07 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=19 April 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Welcome back, Dr Who | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Welcome_back,_Dr_Who | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=19 April 2021}}</ref>