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Discovery cuts on-screen credits to five seconds

The 30-second credit roll that runs at the end of a program is soon to become a thing of the past throughout the Discovery networks. As reported in RealScreen Plus (March 28, 2002), what will replace it on-screen is a five-second card featuring the Discovery logo, the prodco name and the discovery.com web address. Detailed credits will go into an online database and will live on the Discovery site for a period of months.
May 1, 2002

The 30-second credit roll that runs at the end of a program is soon to become a thing of the past throughout the Discovery networks. As reported in RealScreen Plus (March 28, 2002), what will replace it on-screen is a five-second card featuring the Discovery logo, the prodco name and the discovery.com web address. Detailed credits will go into an online database and will live on the Discovery site for a period of months.

Steve McGowan, Discovery’s senior VP of research, says the company conducted extensive research to come up with new strategies to keep viewers tuned into its channels. ‘Just one of several elements is what happens at the end of a program,’ he notes. ‘We recognize that in the olden days you used to have a minute-and-a-half credit. There are still some programs that run on pbs that have some very long credit information. But, they have a different business paradigm than we do.’

McGowan adds Discovery is far from alone in planning to implement this strategy. ‘Across the board commercially we’ve noted a trend towards reduction if not abolition of credit information. I was hearing [about credit rollbacks] two years ago in meetings with producers. They cited other networks that were already talking about abolishing credits,’ he says.

The news has distressed some doc-makers. Notes one producer, ‘Sometimes we can get a better rate from people if we give them a credit, now we can’t even offer them that bone.’ Others are resigned. Says Bruce David Klein, president of New York prodco Atlas Media, ‘As a filmmaker I think it stinks. As a businessperson it does not surprise me.’

McGowan and Justin Albert, VP of production for Animal Planet, conducted closed meetings throughout April with producers (in New York, L.A., Washington D.C., London and during MIPTV) to discuss the decision and solicit feedback. Moving credits to the web wasn’t up for debate, but they did accept suggestions on how it can be done.

According to Albert, only five percent to 10% of producers approached by Discovery are against the ‘credit migration’, while about 30% see it as a positive change. Says Albert, ‘They would much rather have something that lives interactively on the web for six months than a credit that whizzes past in 0.8 of a second. And, they see credits as a way of getting work.’

The dialog has since moved beyond Discovery. The board of governors of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences asked the non-fiction peer group, among others, to present its take on the issue. At press time, the meeting had not yet taken place.

With Discovery’s credits reduced to five seconds, the obvious question is whether TV credits will disappear altogether. McGowan says that won’t happen, at least on Discovery. If it does, broadcasters may be in for a bigger fight with producers. Notes Klein, ‘The production company credit is particularly important for an independent producer. It’s our business card, it’s touting our brief moment of glory. It’s how we show our wares to the world and to potential clients. To me, that should be the last stand.’

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