In February 2013, Delia Smith vowed never to star in another TV cookery show – instead choosing to offer online cookery tutorials. The veteran TV chef is reported to have made the shock announcement at a Birmingham consumer trade show – according to a report in the Telegraph – stating that she has turned down a (no-doubt lucrative) request from the BBC to develop a new programme for the broadcaster, in favour of a new career in exclusively online content.
“As soon as my Waitrose contract ended” Delia explains “the BBC called me up and said ‘what can we do?’ And I said ‘no, thank you’. I am afraid to say this is the end when it comes to Delia on the telly.”
Now before you turn your John Lewis Chef’s Blowtorch upon yourself in horror – or plan a bath with your Kenwood Food Processor… Let us consider the following; Is this indicative of astute, forward-thinking technological and commercial acumen – or rather purely symptomatic of growing frustrations with television formatting requirements? Has savvy Delia dished up her very last TV meal and identified a brand new recipe for success through pre, post and mid-roll advertising-revenue? Afterall, writing in this month’s Wired magazine, Tom Cheshire publicizes Britain’s “new screen superstars – a generation that has built a global fanbase (and a chunky living) on their YouTube channels”. Is dear Delia really planning to bite the hand that… ahem… feeds her – and join the likes of ‘nerimon’, ‘itswaypastmybedtime’ and ‘charlieissocoollike’?
Delia’s first BBC show aired in 1973, while her last appearance for the broadcaster was in 2010, with Delia Through The Decades. I would love to report that the no-nonsense chef is the first of an inevitable tide of on-screen talent to make this shift – but, before analysing her motivation, was this very public pledge really necessary at all?
The inevitable mass uptake of connected television over the coming years has the potential to level the playing field between UK broadcasters and short-form online content. In our convergent/transmedia times, this mirrors the manner in which the distinction between broadcast production companies and digital agencies is increasingly more blurred than ever. Will audiences really care how their content is delivered – be it digi-box, cable, satellite dish or over the web? Once ‘Pandora’s (in)-box’ is opened (see what I’ve done there?) and consumers have the opportunity to access the internet through the device that is still the undisputed star of the home, broadcasters will have to work harder than ever before to maintain their audiences and advertising partnerships – as consumers become accustomed to ‘grazing’ on short-form content and the entire TV eco-system is shaken to its core.
Since web content and traditional ‘TV’ will be delivered through the same device – whilst “Saint Delia’s” announcement signals the potential end of a long, tasty relationship with the BBC, it has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the manner in which fans will consume her content – or should I say the device.
Smith cites undue emphasis on entertainment over education as her primary frustration: “When I started, there was further education in the BBC; now you have to entertain. You have someone telling me I haven’t got time to show this, or I haven’t got time to show that.” She does, however, exhibit a refreshing and pioneering understanding of how technology and the nation’s collective viewing habits are evolving, amongst broadcast on-screen talent – that is, declaring “This is the future for me and the population. It’s miles ahead.”
I, for one, salute her commitment and willingness to embrace what many of her generation might deem daunting ‘new’ technology. Good for you Delia… Let’s be ‘avin you.