A Dance to the Music of Time, Channel 4's adaptation of Anthony Powell's epic, is its most expensive drama serial ever. Alan Bennett, John Gielgud, Miranda Richardson, Zoe Wanamaker and Edward Fox are just five reasons why. But it will it make the money back in advertising? Zenith, the nation's biggest buyer of TV airtime, thinks so, seeing how the Bleasdale thriller Melissa did in the same slot. Dramas like this bring in around 3.6 million viewers, 50 per cent more than Channel 4's average, with a heavy bias to lucrative AB viewers. Running over 10 hours at peak time, A Dance ... could raise the average of the channel's autumn season.
Cracker's new prize
Also on Channel 4's schedule this autumn is the third showing of the first series of Cracker, bought from ITV for about a tenth of the cost of an original Channel 4 drama. The Morse repeats brought in 4.2 million viewers and almost doubled its viewing share. When Granada does things like sell old Crackers to Channel 4 it upsets other ITV companies, which lose revenue. ITV may well not cross-promote the re-runs.
Digital hardly counts
Media correspondents writing about the digital television revolution find readers likely to turn the page. This will be an even bigger problem for the media companies about to invest millions in it. A survey by MediaCom shows that 60 per cent of the population do not know anything about digital services. Of the others, 25 per cent say they have decided not to get it, or think there is no need for it: 80 per cent of those without satellite and cable TV are happy with the five channels they have got. It's as well the Government aims to force people to tune into digital by turning off analogue.
Backfiring on 5
Channel 5 was created because advertisers wanted it. They wanted more viewers to move from the BBC where ads cannot get to them. So it is important for Channel 5 to ensure that its viewers are indeed coming from the BBC and not from commercial rivals. Channel 5 claims that the BBC's viewing share has fallen from 44 per cent to 42.9 per cent since it came on air, but MediaCom points out that when Channel 5 took a 2.7 per cent share of viewing, ITV's share fell by (you guessed it) 2.7 per cent. Media-Com thinks BBC's viewers are going to cable and satellite.