CHASING THE OLYMPIC DREAM


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When the reverse happens it proves that old adage … that more of the same is often the best strategy, says Peter Savage.
As the Olympics are over, and as it will soon be the end of the Paralympics, it is time to summarise the effects the Games have had on the country. The feel-good factor has been astonishingly high bringing with it a new – or, rather, renewed – pride in knowing that when it comes to putting on a jolly good show, we know how to get it right. Self-deprecation, humour, wit – with even HM The Queen sending herself up – muddled with subtle and not-so-subtle commentaries on modern life, all make outsiders think of us as intellectually rigorous and slightly bonkers. It’s a fair summary, wouldn’t you say?
Meanwhile, it has been interesting to note that, in some cases in our industry, the expected bonanza did not happen and that the old adage of ‘more of the same’ seems to have been proven right yet again.
Assessing the reasons
I spent those glorious weeks of UK euphoria talking to several companies across our industry, to gauge whether we had seen the boom we expected from hosting the Games. The first was a prominent broadcast/hire company; the second was a generalist hire company; and the third was a Soho-based post-production company – a decent representation of our industry.
In all cases, each had experienced a considerable drop-off of business during August – and far more of a reduction than they would expect during the holiday season. The reasons, they cited, were that film companies wouldn't travel or book during the Olympics for fear that hotels, equipment and talent would not be (or not want to be) available. Many production companies, those that would have expected to be busy during this period, re-scheduled work into later this year; a general fear of travel chaos caused many people to postpone August bookings.
So there I am, having banged the Olympic drum for being great for the UK economy, only to find that the Games have, in fact, had the opposite effect. I investigated more deeply and discovered that the same thing happened in South Africa during the World Cup – the local TV hire companies saw their work diminish during and around that time.
A global chain reaction
The cause is almost certainly that these two great television events are so global that local companies have to compete against worldwide rivals. I know of one order – one that was almost certain to be UK-bound – that was snapped up by an Australian company that quoted a price people regard as below cost. This was possible, mainly, as the company already had equipment here as part of their contract with Australian TV. The knock-on effect of something like this then hit all the way down the broadcast chain – the main contractors were going to sub-hire from others … and so it went on.
So when, earlier this year, one of my customers (predominantly a small camera hire company) said it was going to buy a large amount of camera channels, enabling them to create a new area of demand because this was the way forward given that the Olympic Games were coming, I (for once) expressed some scepticism. Some may say it is unlike me to turn down new business but …
Not worth the risk
We sat down and discussed the pros and cons of this new area of business. How many enquiries had they had? And for what type of kit? Was it a case of people not enquiring about this kit because they assumed the company didn’t have it? Or was it that the company’s client base was wrong?
After exploring all possibilities, the conclusion was that it was probably best staying true to the business they were best at – and investing in a different type of kit because the possibility of six weeks’ work for the price of three was not a sensible way of building on their already strong business. In the way that life goes, the contract they were bidding for never materialised so they would have invested in a whole load of kit that was not their speciality – only to have it sitting on a shelf. Hence, in hindsight, we both felt very relieved about our joint decision not to take that risk.
Benefits to come?
There is the chance, though, that the Olympics and Paralympics will lead to greater interest in the UK, not just in London, as a place to do business and that that knock-on effect might lead to more opportunities in our broadcast world, longer term. Which brings me to another old adage: we will have to work at it, not expect it to happen simply because we have been in the gold medal spotlight. We must keep proving that we can put on a jolly good show.
Next month I will look into how and when you should diversify your product and what are the best ways of protecting your business so you do not dive headfirst into something that promises nothing.
If you would like to know more about building your business in economically challenging times, do email me on peter.savage@azule.co.uk and/or write to the TV Bay editor. For more information about us, or to read other articles in this series, look at our website: www.azule.co.uk.

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