BitDepth#875 - March 05

CarnivalTV has been fighting to do its work in the festival for two years now. What's been happening with them?
CarnivalTV, 2013
It’s all giggles until the negotiations start. CarnivalTV’s Walt Lovelace, Camille Parsons, Paul Charles and Curtis Popplewell. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

When last we saw
the CarnivalTV crew in March 2011, they were riding high on the success of an immaculately streamed, high definition video production of much of Carnival 2011.
Flush with success, the boys were being cagey with the background on the project, how much, what’s next, how did you do it.

This time around, Paul Charles, Curtis Popplewell and Walt Lovelace, joined by Advance Dynamics partner Camille Parsons were more open about the advances and setbacks of the last two years of work.
The team invested $1.5 million in making the Carnival event happen in 2011 and the two questions that needed to be answered immediately were what do we do next and how do we make money doing it?

Twenty-two streams of live events later, some things had not changed at all.
Sponsors and advertisers are still gun shy about participating in a live stream of Carnival events.
“Nobody is giving us any advertising for these products,” says Parsons, “but they aren't giving anybody else the ads either.”
“We've done a study, a quite expensive one,” Paul Charles adds, “on the top brands targeting the diaspora, but we don't have the audience numbers for the streaming product to go to the top marketers.”

CarnivalTV needs to build numbers by improving the product they offer, and that means working with event producers to make their shows more accessible to a viewing audience.
Instead, they have come up against either a wall built with bricks of rights demands or people who want to do the project on their own.

In 2011, CarnivalTV won steadily escalating numbers for the online streams, with 69,000 viewers for Panorama finals, 152,000 for Dimanche Gras and 252,000 viewers for Carnival Tuesday.
When they opened discussions with the NCBA to stream of the event in 2012, the organisation demanded $4 million for the rights. CNMG streamed Carnival Tuesday last year but the NCBA stopped the station’s stream this year in favour of their own low-resolution stream.

Last year, CarnivalTV also began to get calls from several event producers looking to put their Carnival events online. The team took meetings with people in Grenada, Antigua and St Vincent, as well as diaspora Carnivals in Boston, Miami and Brooklyn's Labour Day celebrations.

The consistent sticking point? The cost of a live high definition stream. Putting up an eight hour Carnival stream with even a minimal camera crew can cost up to US$200,000, with most of that the cost of keeping a broadband feed open for the HD signal.

CarnivalTV found an ally in the festival’s fraternity in Pan Trinbago, not a stakeholder noted for its embrace of technology, but apparently one willing to listen and learn.
In 2012, the Panorama Finals stream was a pay per view project. It did not meet its financial targets, despite drawing the best numbers that CarnivalTV has ever recorded for a paid stream.

This year, Pan Trinbago underwrote the project and won plaudits from overseas fans of the music, including a heartfelt “thank you” from the unflinching
When Steel Talks website, which had pilloried the organisation for failing to broadcast this year’s semi-final round online.

Panorama is also the least pirated stream, perhaps because hi-fi pan aficionados are less interested in a free feed from someone’s jury rigged camera-in-front-of-the-tv setup than in high quality sound and visuals from a national performance.

The most pirated stream was last year’s National Soca Monarch event, which Paul Charles estimates lost roughly US$700,000 in potential income from pirate streams which they worked hard to knock offline.
And the piracy isn’t even related to the cost of the stream. When the soca monarch semi-finals were offered in 2012 at US$0.99, an online furore began over the effrontery of “charging for de culture.”

“We have,” Charles notes with a wry smile, “a serious social perception problem when it comes to piracy.”
CarnivalTV soldiers on, much wiser after three experiences with Carnival and their offseason productions.
In meetings, they still have to explain what they do.

“Have you,” I asked Paul Charles, “ever met with someone with the power to authorise funding who had ever actually seen a CarnivalTV stream?”
“No,” he responded.
“I don't think that people here understand the appetite outside for a well-produced Carnival show.”

The company prepared a high concept proposal for the Government at the end of 2012, pitching the packaging of Carnival for online streaming as a way to focus interest on other events and attractions during the year.

“Carnival is saturated as an event,” says Charles, “all the hotels are filled during the festival and the bands sell out, but during that time, people in the world are paying attention to us.”
“Yes,” adds Camille Parsons, “use the spotlight and make it brighter.”
The Government has not responded to their proposal.

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