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TV is about to go Nuts

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TV is about to go Nuts
Next Wednesday sees the launch of NutsTV, a new digital terrestrial channel from Turner Broadcasting System and Nuts magazine publisher IPC Ignite. ETV, the production team behind Thomas Cook TV, London TV and ITV's The Mint are producing the channel, so DS spoke to ETV's director of television, Adrian Swift to find out what NutsTV is all about.

Adrian, you worked on Live TV before it closed in 1999, will NutsTV be similar in to LiveTV?
No, I don't think it will be similar. I think the whole world's moved on from those days. What Live TV did very well is it got in people's heads with things like Topless Darts - whatever you say about it. It had a much bigger audience than it deserved. I constantly read that Live TV closed down because it didn't have a big audience - it had a huge audience. Probably bigger than most of the multichannels around at the moment. The problem that it had was it didn't have a very big budget and it had some good ideas, and some not very good ideas.

And NutsTV?
The world has moved on in eight years - men's magazines have flourished and there's a whole new genre - with the likes of Bravo, Men & Motors, ITV4, BBC Three, Virgin 1 - there's lots of men's channels out there. What we've tried to do is keep the fun. There were some odd funny things on Live TV - but what we've also tried to do [with NutsTV] is invent something that's a bit new and a bit different. What we didn't want is to just have endless runs of Dog the Bounty Hunter. We didn't want to be just like all digital television, which is take a couple of programme strands and run them until they bleed. What we wanted to do was make something that's a little bit like a party every night. Where we've got good guests, interesting people, and we do weird things you won't see in any other places. And I guess where you'll end up is some of them will be a huge hit and some of them people will go 'what was that?' Broadly speaking it doesn't owe much to Live TV. But having said all of that, if I get their audiences, I'll be a very happy man!

Nuts is a big brand, and very well known. Some of the schedule does look a little similar to strands in the magazine.
We have one or two content strands that are common to the magazine. Things like Rude News - which is just a funny look at the news - it's not rude at all. We've got Pub Ammo, a content strand about facts and figures which is fun and interesting. Other than that we are using the sensibility of the guys in the magazine. The IPC guys know their audience really well. Their market share has held well because their editorial is really strong. The channel is much less about boobs and girls than the magazine. Britain's Fittest Barmaid is more of a funny reality show about getting a group of smart, good looking girls to do fun stuff that makes everybody laugh. What we don't have are pictorials of girls or slow, long, languid pans over women with their tops off - the television equivalent of the magazine. We don't do that. It works really well in print, because in print you can make it look glossy, wonderful and fabulous. In television, the way we've interpreted the sensibility of the magazine is to be funny. We have lots of beautiful women floating about the channel, but they don't take their clothes off.

How did you choose your presenters?
There was a long audition process. We got lots and lots of people in. And we had lots of really good people. Our filter was simply this: we really wanted to have people that worked [well] together, so there was a bit of a spark, and there's a bit of a frisson between them. And that's tough to get. Also that the people were real. We wanted people that could talk from their very own personality. The big issue is that guys from 16 to 24 can smell a rat a million miles away. They've been brought up on television. They don't fall for any of the tricks or the conceits of television, which we in the industry find so clever. They just want real stuff that makes them laugh, makes them go wow, or grabs their attention. I think we've got some good people.

Men's magazines have had a rough ride recently with circulation figures dropping. Is this is a good time to be launching a men's channel?
I think its the perfect time, simply because lads mags now have to do the next thing. And the bottom line is they all went through those curves. Loaded et al launched and were huge hits, and then people started to understand the format, so logically the audience dropped away. So what did they do? They launched a weekly, so that stole all the audience from the monthlies. It is just a natural cycle of these things. The reality is that they've got to do the next thing. Nuts understand that they've got to have a four-play - a bit of print, a bit of telly, a bit of broadband and a bit of mobile - because their audience is on all those platforms. It's good for them because they get to talk to people where they are and whatever they're doing. The other huge advantage is that television isn't like the magazine. You've got to make a bit of a commitment to go into a newsagent, handover a couple of quid for a magazine with a picture of girls with their breasts out on the front cover. TV is much less of a commitment. You get more people browsing. Everyone really likes the Nuts brand, but only a tenth of those go and actively buy the magazine - but they'll all have a look at it and all really enjoy it. What we hope is that the TV channel takes the magazine brand and expands it to a whole host of people that they wouldn't normally talk to.

Nuts already interacts with its readers quite a lot through the website. Is audience interaction going to be a part of the channel?
It's going to be big. The reason I wanted to do it live is so people can have an effect on it. Television tends to be as if we're pumping stuff 'at you, at you, at you'. What we wanted to try and do is say 'we're live all night, send us something.' Send us a clip or we'll ask you to vote on something. You can win a prize, but its all resolved in the show as you watch it. Because it's live, it all happens there and then. Its got much more of a sense that you can be part of the programming. There are probably 10 or 12 opportunities in every show to do something. We can take video from mobiles or from the internet and have it on air within 15-minutes of you sending it to us. People like it and it's good for us because we get content. What we don't want is loads of endless terrible user-generated-content, but we think we'll get lots of terrible stuff, some quite good stuff and some really great stuff in any one evening. Hopefully we'll put a lot of it to air because it's kind of interesting.

The content you've got so far is all produced in-house. Will you be looking for ideas from other production companies?
At the moment is all in-house, but we are negotiating some external acquisitions. Just while we get our tone and style right, we're keeping it all in-house. Next year we actually move to a commissioning budget so we will be looking to indies for ideas. Particularly short-form, animation and edgy stuff.

How involved are the Nuts magazine editorial and sales team? How much contact is there?
The sales team, daily. The editorial team, probably weekly. What we're trying to be a little bit careful of is the TV channel advertising what's in the mag - Ofcom rules have changed so we can do that now - but the bottom line is that we think the television audience will be bigger than the magazine's audience. We want to reflect the great things in the mag, but let it do what it does well on its own, like 'Ring of Truth' and the pictorials, because they work well in print. But other stuff we will take out and we will do ourselves, but working with them. We're currently doing some joint shoots with the magazine - they're doing the pictures and the editorial and we're doing the television. That stuff works really well.

Where would you like NutsTV to be in a year's time?
I want to have at least two hit programme strands, and I'd like people to be talking about it for good or for ill. I'd like it to be on people's agenda. If even people watch it for five minutes and it makes them smile and laugh, and it gives them something to talk about the next day. If young men on Digital Spy or wherever are talking about it in year's time, that's really what I want.

NutsTV launches on Freeview channel 42 at 9pm on Wednesday September 12.

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