TopGear USA, Canceled – 2nd try

TG USA NBC FAIL - Who is up next?

TG USA NBC FAIL - Who is up next?

I just read that TopGear USA or Gear as NBC was going to call it, has been canceled before it has even begun. (because of the epic fail of Knight Rider??? WTF?)  This is disappointing news but it also doesn’t surprise me since this has been the 2nd try at getting a sister show in the US running in some form.

There was a BBC developed test pilot about 2 years ago called TGUSA that never left the ground, and in 2008 NBC started the process of developing a series and selecting hosts and now that has stopped too.

The Top Gear Show people at the BBC say that they are shopping the concept around to cable broadcast networks via the Jalopnik post, but I am not all that sure this will work either. I think that finding a network in the US for TopGear will be tricky because of a few things:

1. All the shows in the US change their content to please advertisers. TopGear does not. This is a huge risk for US networks, (cable or free tv) because they could loose a huge amount of revenue if an advertiser doesn’t like a comment about their product on the show. (not just cars remember, TG rips on anything they don’t like from caravans to clothing to speed cameras)

2. The only people who will want to fund this show would have to be fans. (even if they are executives or media moguls, they still have to be fans to believe in the concept) They would have to understand the intricacies of what TG is, how it is produced and why people love it so much all over the world. You can’t mess with that formula. They are trying so hard in Australia to get it right and my brother still calls it “Bad Top Gear” that we watch when UK Top Gear is off-season. It is a show that is incredibly hard to get right  and the chance you can replicate this in a formulaic way is slim. Just think, the UK  Top Gear has been running since 1977 and only since the late 1990’s has it been really good. It took them that long to get the UK version right and they are still tweaking.

The TopGear show not only takes the best improviser hosts, it must take a huge staff of researchers, a boatload of talented car mechanic guys for all the race and experimental stuff they do, a boatload of the best camera guys and the most excellent editors and sound people. And I am sure I am unfairly forgetting half of the staff. And then there is the constantly updated website. This is a large overhead cost when networks may not know if they can make any ROI from it and don’t know heads or tails about what would make it successful.

Maybe they should start small instead? A small TG-USA blog with short 5-10 min segment clips once in a while? See if it generates enough web interest and then take it to TV? Smaller staff, less hours needed in all the functions and it lets you get your bearings straight on all the details before going on to a higher cost/risk situation. Just a thought… 

Or maybe produce one time hour long “specials” to see how they take without a huge commitment in set building and long term contracts? More the on the road stuff, challenges, trips, building/breaking things? I am just trying to think of ideas on how to keep costs down and limit the risk in the beginning so it can catch on.

Another idea is to pitch it to a sports network, the speed channel or odd indie channel on cable like FX. Or go wild and produce it on the BBC America channel. (and take off those neutered versions of the show that are running there now) That might be it’s best chance of succeeding. Get some large (non-car) sponsors of the show and see what happens. 

Regardless of who ends up producing and funding TopGear USA I hope it lives and I still look forward to seeing the final product. (even if it ends up kind of crap)   . . .

Hey can I help? My brother and I plus my fiance make 3 redheads who know negligible things about cars and have great banter. (my Brother and Fiance actually do know something about cars, I am really the goof of the bunch) If nothing else these pics prove we are real people.

Ok, I know that is a crap idea, but I had to try…

We’d be the super low budget version.

Here’s a camcorder duct taped to your window, good luck, don’t break it. 

Seriously, it would be funny… Ok I’ll forget about it…

What did you spend your economic stimulus rebate check on?

I have not yet received my rebate check from the US government for economic stimulus purposes. I have read though that people are planning on saving it, paying down debts or using it for necessities like food and gas. All very good things. I think the people who will loose out will be the ones that think it is good for another fancy handbag or 100th pair of red shoes.  I think some Americans are coming to the conclusion that you are not what you own and that a simpler lifestyle has less financial risk in these uncertain times.

I have lived on both sides of the fence, a child of a uber-frugal dad and a spendy mom. I currently feel the urge to get a pair of dark jeans trouser pants even though I have plenty of pants. I feel the urge to pay extra principle on my mortgage every month even though I probably won’t be living there in 20 or 30 years. I feel the need to buy a car that gets 35 mpg or better AND has leather heated seats AND an automatic transmission AND costs less than $20K (used). Why do none exist? I guess I am a paradox that car makers don’t accommodate.

I am not suprised at the high cost of gasoline right now and fully expect it to get higher. (it’s not that they don’t want to increase oil production, it’s that they can’t because there isn’t more to be tapped) That said, it is scary that I spent $120.00 in May on Gas and I only drive on Weekends since I take the train and walk to work. If I was still driving every day to and from work that would be about double at $240.00. A full tank just cost me $65.oo and I have a 16 gallon tank.

What I didn’t see coming is the rising cost of food. Everything is not only going up in price at the grocery store, there is a difference in the regular prices of food depending on where you buy it in Chicagoland. I have started shopping at the super target in far west suburbia where Steve lives rather than pay about 10% more in Oak Park. And that doesn’t even include the difference in sales taxes by county.

I think people’s budgets will be pushed even further to the edge and breaking point in the rest of 2008 and that it will be a lean Christmas because the high cost of basic necessities will make it hard to afford non-necessity gifts. I would say that a good place for the rebate check would be an ING savings account and hopefully it will generate some interest before it becomes a Christmas gift fund.

TopGear is Pissing me off! (BBC America Edits a Lot Out)

topgear, BBC AmericaOk TopGear and company, I thought you had finally come to your senses and finally decided to broadcast TopGear to the United States via BBC America. I was glad the US Pilot was scrapped (because there was no open audition for it) and people would stop uploading your videos to YouTube because they would be able to tune in and see it on TV like 350 million other people around the world do every week. But NO, I saw it for the first time this weekend and I am sorry to report that it’s screwed up again. Here’s why:

1. The season is off for broadcasting to America. They show season 9 on BBC America and Season 10 is airing now. Why do they make the US wait 6 months behind everyone else? See reason 2.

2. They cut out 1/3 of the program!! WTF!!!@!>? I know the BBC America’s monetization format is from subscriber fees AND commercials but jesus, why can’t you just leave all 60 minutes of the show intact for just this one show? Or extend it to be an hour and a half? Putting 20 minutes of commercials in and taking out 20 minutes of content ruins it. It is no where near as good if you chop it up and put commercials for razors and beer every 5 minutes.

3. WTF is up with the promos showing the big funny moments before each commercial break?? You’re spoiling it. It’s not supposed to work like US TV where you bait someone along for 3 hours for a payoff after you have monetized them to death. Just let it run for 60 minutes and then play commercials for a 1/2 hr before or after.

Seriously. This is awful. And it’s not really TopGear. You can’t ‘get” TopGear in bite size pieces. You don’t get the relationships or the references that are particularly UK or European unless you sit and watch the whole thing and then think about it for a while and watch it again. And duh, that is why we LIKE it. We want to learn about how things are over there, and see what they have to say. It’s entertaining because it’s worldly and different.

Please, I beg you to just sell the full format shows in a DVD box set that is in it’s complete 60 minute format.  Start releasing season 1 now and roll out the rest over the next 2 years. Seriously it is the only way you will ever really win over the Americans, by showing us the same program the same way you show it to the rest of the world. Jipping us by selling a 1/2 assed version just sucks.

At this point I recommend only watching the full versions on YouTube and not watching it on BBC America at all.

I <3 Broadband

I got DSL broadband in my home (from AT&T) about a year ago and I have to say it has changed my life. I no longer have to wait for pages to load and I get things done so much faster. In fact it makes getting info so much easier that I am more likley to go to the computer for info than anywhere else. I IM and email more than I talk on the phone but if someone does call it is way cool that I can talk on the land line at the same time as I am online. I can also donwload movies and watch them on youtube or netflix. It is better than waiting for a DVD in the mail. It is silly that I waited so long to get broadband. Now I just have to convince my brother and parents to get it too. There are too many things I want to show them that they can’t download over dial up. It is a little weird to put the filters on all the land lines but once that is done, they do a broadband speed test to check the line, and if everything check out, everything just works. It’s great.

Finding Broadband in the UK

I have a bunch of coworkers that fly overseas to the UK several times a year and they say that things are somewhat similar living there but there are always more differences than just the dialect. One difference is the technology for broadband. More people are catching on there now, but the popularity had lagged behind the US for some time. I am not sure if it was because of infrastructure or just not as much popularity. I also just read that online advertising is booming there and all over Europe so maybe their bubble is starting now? Anyway, if you are someone going to move to the UK or live there now, a broadband company I have heard about offering wifi broadband is BT Consumer Wireless Services. They are equivalent to an AT&T or Verizon here. And wireless makes more sense over there anyway. Why not get wi fi rather than rip up walls to install cable? It just makes more sense.

Toyota Quality Drops, Ford Quality Improves Dramatically

I have never been excited by the sight of a Toyota, but they have climbed to the top of the sales charts in the U.S. because of a claim that they build better cars with less mechanical problems and better over all quality. They cite all the J.D. Power and Associates awards and Consumer Reports reviews that gave them high marks for quality and the consumers that echoed the same feelings with repeat purchases generation after generation.

It wouldn’t be an axe to grind with me except that every Toyota owner, dealer and ad over the years has picked on GM and American Domestic cars saying that they suck. (and has picked on my cars always being Buicks and recently a Saab) And in the 80’s they did but that was a looooong time ago now, and the tables have turned. GM, Ford and Chrysler have been very aggressive in making production changes that improve quality and reliability in the short term and long term.

The gap between quality in a foreign car and a domestic one has closed and for years (despite many ad claims) there hasn’t really been any difference. Yet these people who own Toyotas still flaunt it and say that any American Car just sucks. And I resent that. Especially today when a new report from Consumer Reports comes out saying that the 6 cylinder Toyota Camry for 2007 scored as “below average”. Not ok, or good, or average. The best selling TOYOTA IS BELOW AVERAGE in QUALITY! 

Go suck on that Toyota!

I am sorry if this seems like a very 1980’s stance to have in liking American cars, or if it seems uneducated and uninformed like many Domestic car buyers are (it seems to be the demographic type who keeps buying them) but it is really a very current idea and very related to our own economy. (Hello Jobs!) I think that the open market lasezz faire idea only works to the benefit of the masses if you have companies and people that care about their own country and economy enough to support it and be proud of it’s achievements. And here we have a case of most people believing old out dated information from a foreign manufacturer and the advertising rather than the real true information.

It is hard to sway people’s opinion and “feeling” about something as costly as a car. It takes years and sometimes generations, but I would like to start that chain reaction to bring people back to the belief that U.S. made cars are good quality, very reliable, a good deal for the money and will hold their resale value. It isn’t just a belief though, it is true and proveable with stats.

For example, I have a 2001 Saab. (Yes Saab is owned and operated by GM) And I bought it for 14K in 2003. It’s 2007 and I was thinking of trading it in and was offered 8K for it. Would you get that much value retention in a Toyota that was 6 years old? I don’t think so. They really can hold their value and be good reliable cars. I decided to keep my Saab and I still drive it now. I am very happy with it and would recommend checking out GM, Ford and Chrysler in your next car search. I think you will be happier with what you find there than with the imports.

Advertising and Economic Growth Dissertation

advertising-and-economic-growth.pdf

Ok, back to the serious stuff again… (ugh) I have been reading this study on advertising on economics, while I am on the train. (it keeps the crazy people away) Advertising and Economic Growth by Maximilien Nayaradou and prepared by the World federation of Advertisers. (I guess there is a federation for everything) It is very interesting, and as always I am looking for clues and insight into my own market and analysis category by way of these theories and research. I am only 1/2 way through it but 2 things have struck me thus far.

advertising economics correlation

1. The consumption trend for the US is crazy high compared with the rest of the world. The people here are really living on thin ice financially. There is very little saftey net if you spend 70% of your income (considered consumption in the chart). The formula is More Advertising $ Spent = More Consumer Consumption. But notice the law of diminishing returns, and how high the spending had to get just to move the needle that little bit between the UK and the US which are already at the highest end.

2. The correlation they talk about between higher advertising rates and higher economic growth rates are not really true in my opinion. I do not think extra advertising raises growth rates, I think it speeds up and condenses a product life cycle in a shorter time. The result is that things get old faster, out of fashion faster and people want new stuff faster. Therefore excessive and mass advertising would condense a product’s lifecycle from 5 years to maybe 2 at best. You train people to want something new every 2 months and your product won’t sell at all in 3. It all leads to a faster churn of companies growing booming and later failing and going under. That’s not new growth, that’s growth that would have happened anyway, you just made it faster, and it will drop off just as fast when people get tired of it and stop buying. No one talks about the downward slide on the other end, or how this creates a turblulent economy where people get laid off from jobs every 2 years and companies have to get bailed out all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like advertising in general. I have always been fascinated by it and love it’s news like ability to reach consumers and inform them about new priducts, information and entertainment when it is relevant and benificial. But I HATE over-advertising spammy companies that think that with enough money spent plastering their name on everything that moves, they will be able to keep that upwards growth trend going. You have to realize that people are over sensitized and will block it out after a certain point, and if they have a bad experience with the product they are not going to be very willing to give it another chance. Unless they aren’t that smart, but then as a country we have even bigger problems.