Thursday, 12 December 2019

A New Deal for Nature – bigoted, prejudiced and makes surprising sense

The musical Cabaret is touring the UK and playing to packed houses. In it, John Partridge makes a super Emcee, faced with the growing horror of the rising power of the Nazis. His camp splendour turns to heart-tugging pathos when he cries: ‘All we are asking is eine bisschen Verständnis - A little understanding’. And it is that understanding that is the main ingredient missing from Caroline Lucas’s fine attempt to begin a national debate about the greening of Britain.

Just before the general election 2019, former Green Party chief and its only MP Caroline Lucas published a document she commissioned for her party. Prepared by Patrick Barkham, Mark Cocker, Jake Fiennes, Jeremy Mynott and Helen Smith, it offers proposals for a national policy on the environment.

The key name to notice is Jake Fiennes. Brother of actors Ralph and Joseph, composer Magnus and film directors Martha and Sophie, Jake is a former gamekeeper, in charge of wildlife management and conservation Lord Leicester’s 25,000-acre Holkham Estate in Norfolk. As a Fiennes, he is smack on top of the Guardianista set who are his co-preparers. As a gamekeeper, he is an obvious outsider.

Given the heritage of its writers, forgive the report for erring on the characteristically pompous. In the manner of Thomas Jefferson, they start it with: ‘We hold it as self-evident that humans, like any other species, are a part of nature’. Perhaps that’s its core problem. It makes the kind of assumptions you would expect of the pompous. On page 5 it lists the amenity value of the countryside as ‘sports, running, cycling, playing with our children, walking with friends and family’ – leaving out hunting, shooting and fishing which, whether they like it or not, is what most people enjoying the amenity value of Britain’s national parks outside the main summer season are doing most of the time.

‘If you took the references to British nature out of William Shakespeare’s plays, then there would be deletions on every page,’ they say – but they don’t say that if you take the references to fieldsports out of the English countryside there would be blank pub signs and unnamed roads, woods and fields wherever you look. These writers prefer their countryside to be defined by literary references than by rural references.

We can establish from their preamble that although, like fieldsports enthusiasts, they are keen to restore the countryside to its natural glory, they layer on an animal rights fundamentalist’s horror of fieldsports.

Where they have a point is in their summary, that they ‘distrust any simple and single solutions to the national nature crisis, such as “plant more trees”’.

This is a profoundly sensible view to take. The countryside is too complicated for any solution to work in isolation. That’s why so many politicians founder on simple policy ideas, such as then DEFRA secretary Michael Gove’s mishaps trying out the word ‘sentience’ for the first time.

The report’s authors are who they are. We can’t get away from that. So what do they say that makes sense?

They call for a more robust statutory nature framework that puts, for example, wildlife at the heart of planning. From a pure fieldsports point of view, this makes sense (though from the point of view of living in a working, breathing countryside, it is maybe not so sensible). Every footprint you leave in the countryside kills some small creature. Get over it. They call for a return to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee system of UK-wide policy because, they say, ‘The old NCC’s public pronouncement on the importance of wildlife was always measured and this reasoned and independent voice will be restored to make the challenging case for wildlife’. As long as it is not tyrannical in its actions, that works better than the franchising of nature management we see through the split between Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Their statement ‘Provision for wildlife will be maintained at a constant and appropriate level which is unaffected by changes of government or administration personnel’ is surely right. This should come as a matter of relief to government ministers who know that DEFRA can be a graveyard for political careers. No longer will they have to make wildlife-affecting decisions.

The report's authors want an end to the sale of peat by 2022. Peat is to the countryside what coal is to industry – a dependency that has to end.

They want the Nature Recovery Network beefed up. Good idea – but don’t give these authors the credit when it is mainly due to Dr Beeching for closing down branch railways and creating a system of natural motorways that has helped the spread of deer and other wildlife since the 1960s. Well done, Dr Beeching.

They want ‘every farmer [to] devote a minimum of 15% of their land (including linear features) to nature, and be paid to do so’. Whether this is the right percentage or not – and it is likely that this figure should not be written in stone – this is a considerable improvement on the pure conservation Marxism proposed by former DEFRA consultant Dieter Helm in his book, Green and Prosperous Land: A Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside.

They want ‘Proper transport links’ by which they mean public transport links, ‘established to ensure that the system of national parks or other designated landscapes can be visited without reliance upon cars’ and ‘visitors need to reflect the full diversity within the nation’. Excellent idea. Just one thing: all the report’s authors are white and almost all are men.

Dogs ‘can cause damage and disturbance to livestock, wildlife and some habitats, for example, rivers and lakes’ so should be kept on leads or banned. Great idea. Bad luck for dog owners, but it is true. Where this needs to be proportionate is where local landowners / wildlife managers give permission for dogs. Their wildlife management should be their call.

The report calls for ‘support for new farming practices’. Brilliant. Surely one of the biggest problems facing the countryside is urban/suburban failure to recognise where their food comes from.

‘“Cide”-free farming’ and ‘artificial/synthetic fertilisers phased out by 2040’ both make sense. The ‘polluter pays’ principle does not seem to apply to farmers. It is time it did, not because farmers need punishing but because pouring poisons into river systems is environmentally unaccountable. This is one of Dieter Helm’s more sensible observations

What’s not to like about the report’s authors’ education statements, including ‘Rewrite the Education Act, Section 78, to put nature at the centre of the state National Curriculum from nursery to secondary school’? Well – just one thing. Fieldsports needs to be at the heart of this, because fieldsports are the main wildlife management technique in the countryside. Ignoring fieldsports in the classroom is to promote propaganda in the classroom.

Thank goodness they avoided the trope so often used by land reformists under the guise of wildlife policy to rewild or ‘re-tree’ the countryside. Instead, they offer policies for planting trees in urban areas. I can’t comment whether this is a good idea. We don’t have muggers in the countryside.

Their fishing policies make good sense. Commercial fishing may be characterised by one word: greed. Surely, that must stop. But in case you think Caroline Lucas’s pals have a monopoly on this kind of thinking, anglers have been saying it for decades – and been ignored, just as the report’s authors ignore them now.

Unfortunately, these sensible ideas are outweighed by what does not make sense. The biggest problem in this report is a blinkered and bigoted whole section on hunting and shooting. The authors make a couple of attempts to square the Green Party’s opposition to fieldsports with a more sensible approach. Perhaps this is where we see the influence of Jake Fiennes come to bear. The call for a ban on lead shot is, for example, no more than what the European Chemicals Agency is already driving through – though the report authors don’t offer a sensible alternative, nor do they deal with problems such as what happens when you fire copper into trees. Oh yes. You kill them.

You can tell the narrowmindedness from the opening paragraphs, which says: ‘Shooting for fun is abhorrent to many people and yet a small but vocal minority passionately maintains these past-times [sic]’. 600,000 gun licence holders is not small. It is this mistake, made by Marion Spain at Natural England when she waved through a ban on the general licences because she believed only a few thousand people go pigeon shooting, that nearly cost her job.

Then it gets worse. They go for several now permanently fabulous examples of intolerance, including ‘ban the release of non-native game birds’ (what about non-native hares, muntjac and other introduced wildlife? Should they be wiped out, too?), ‘license all game shoots’ and ‘licence all animal control’ (by whom? The League Against Cruel Sports?), ‘ban the shooting of snipe and woodcock’ (don’t forget to ban the wind changing from easterly to westerly during these birds’ autumn migration, which is what kills most of them), ‘outlaw medicated grit’ for grouse (don’t forget to ban other artificial bird welfare such as bird tables and bird boxes), ‘new certified training scheme and licence for gamekeepers’ (does that mean the many young keepers coming out of the UK’s gamekeeping colleges can take advantage of the multi-million-pound gamekeeping contracts currently only available to the RSPB, such as the eradication of stoats on Orkney or mice on Gough Island?), ‘manage our deer population’ with ‘regional targets for per-hectare deer population’ (because they believe that deer on an open hill versus deer in forestry on that hill versus deer around watercourses should be kept at precisely the same number and that that will mean jobs for tens of thousands of ‘deer monitors’), and ‘further reform the Hunting Act’ (because they and other Islington restaurant-goers don’t like foxhunting). All this shows a basic failure by the report’s authors to acknowledge that almost all woodland visible from their railway carriage windows is put there for hunting and shooting.

They wouldn’t be a Green Party report if they did not include a call for a ban on ‘intensive moorland management in designated areas’. The report says: ‘At least 1.3 million hectares of upland Britain are influenced by management for grouse shooting and a significant proportion falls within designated areas. Management of these areas has to be compatible with the wildlife and environmental purposes of the national parks.’

This misses the enormous good work that grouse moor management does for wildlife, protecting peatlands, creating firebreaks in a landscape increasingly at risk of wildfires, providing 85% of the world’s heather upland, and providing a breeding ground for a significant proportion of Europe’s waders. Grow trees on it and we will lose those waders.

Happily, they are not as extreme as the Revive group or the Wild Justice organisation, both founded by BBC TV’s Chris Packham. The report’s authors’ failure to back Revive and Wild Justice’s policies puts Packham out on more of a limb than usual.

The authors call for ‘enhanced support’ (cash) for upland farmers as long as they don’t spend it on game. Why not game? Pure bigotry. This is such a pity when their more reasonable statement, that ‘There has been a devasting, well-documented and continuing decline in the abundance and diversity of Britain’s wildlife in recent decades, arising from causes like intensive agriculture, habitat loss, pesticide poisoning, pollution, land development and other human impacts’ does not include the words ‘hunting’ or ‘shooting’.

The authors of this report are committed to government not just providing a framework for conservation policy, but providing the people who carry out that policy. Their new ‘Council for Nature’ sounds OK, but not if it comes with teams of government marksmen who carry out the work so ably and freely carried out by fieldsports enthusiasts already. That’s how regulated hunting, all over the world, is the major contributor to wildlife conservation.

Again and again, they fail to recognise the patchwork nature of the UK countryside – that so-and-so’s nature conservation efforts here are negated by so-and-so’s desire to plant oilseed rape there, or that X shoots all deer but leaves woodcock, while Y shoots woodcock and ignores deer, and that this produces a millefeuille countryside that works. Their statement ‘Proper population counts are the foundation of all overarching conservation measures’ goes against the basic principles of wildlife management: you know your ground well enough to look at it and say: ‘there are too many / not enough / about the right number of…’ and take action accordingly.

Whether or not it is any good at bringing down TB in cattle, one of the failures of the recent badger cull is its bureaucratic dependence on a mantra of X badgers per sq km. We agree that ‘Funded research is an essential part of effective conservation action’ – but we in the shooting community point to the word ‘part’. Research should not lead conservation action.

Oh and – yes – they want to end the badger cull for what they unscientifically call its ‘political and partisan scapegoating of badgers’. Then they make the sensible call for ‘a need for localised and selective licensing of badger control to protect ground-nesting native birds’.

Finally, there is the stuff they don’t cover. They want classifications untouchable by the planning system but they make no mention of the ludicrous industry that has popped up of rehoming wildlife while property development takes place. A countryperson involved in -day-to-day wildlife management would like to see ‘responsibility to wildlife species, not individuals’, enshrined in the rules. ‘Responsibility to individual animals’ should be confined to livestock.

They don’t mention the ‘mission creep’ that classifications such as SPAs enjoy. In 2019, on a whim, Natural England bosses ruled there can be no pest control under the general licences with 300 metres of an SPA. If they get their way with an increase in national parks, will that suddenly attract, years down the line, a shooting ban within those parks? If so, it’s no to new national parks, please.
The ‘Healthy rivers’ paragraph is excellent – but where is the recognition that the only group who already carry out the work they want – to ‘re-wet, re-establish water meadows and return natural river courses’ – are anglers?

The ‘biosecurity’ section makes good sense too. But where is the acknowldgement that the main group of people shooting grey squirrels in order to protect native reds are the people who own the 12 million airguns in the UK?

Good intentions burst from every page of A New Deal for Nature. Practical conservation measures are there, but they are scribbled over with extremist views on who should run the countryside and why the 100,000-year evolution of fieldsports should be written out of policy. Surely they believe in evolution?

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Werritty, grouse and British public life


You will read a great deal about grouse and hen harriers before Christmas as the Werritty report into grouseshooting in Scotland is published. But this is one little bombardment in a huge war being fought along a giant front. Here is the strategists' guide to what's going on.

Get set for the middle ground battleground. The hunting/anti-hunting debate is one long trench warfare front. It is broadly divided into three sections: the national politics of countrysports are at one end, the media battle for public opinion is at the other. In the middle is the day-to-day policy and public opinion as enacted by civil servants, local and regional government, the police and the judiciary. 

The allied fieldsports of hunting, shooting, fishing and falconry have, to date, been winning the national political battle. National politics reacts to votes and science. There are no votes to be had from countrysports, either for or against it. Science - admittedly paid for by pro-countrysports interests, but peer reviewed - comes down in favour of countrysports as a positive contributor to conservation. Even without the paid lobbyists telling them, it is not hard for MPs and MEPs to understand that the UK woodlands are not put there for their benefit by the railway companies, that the benefit all wildlife, they are there for hunting and shooting, and that without hunting and shooting, they would go. Luckily for countrysports in the UK, landowners form a large part of their support base. 

Fishing and falconry have gone some steps further. Thanks in part to former MP Martin Salter, anglers have successfully presented themselves as the main national pressure group interested in water flow and quality. Falconers have successfully been enshrining their sport as a matter of national heritage.
At the other end of the trench system, the axis of antis are the ones winning the media war. The media is a good place to present stories and actions in isolation, and to offer a binary view of the world. It is hard to put across the complexity of the 'why hunt?' argument, especially when faced with the simplicity of the 'cute rabbit' argument. 

Where both sides need to commit resources next is into the middle ground, and the antis are already better at it. All major organisations, pro- and anti-hunting, have at least one retired police detective on their staff and an appointed legal firm.
In January 2019, Chris Packham's organisation Wild Justice changed the game. Lawyers are not an add-on to its operations. They are its operations. These are lawyers who are able to hold civil servants, the police and even other lawyers to account. 

To the more right-wing among the pro-countrysports side, the change in the law's purpose from social framework to bureaucratic swamp allows Wild Justice to gain a cynical advantage. The right wing can whinge all they like. People in City suits now have more say over crop protection than farmers. Get over it. The right wing lost that round and they need to learn to work with what they have got.
This came home to me most strongly at the EFRA committee meeting, chaired by Neil Parish MP, into the conduct of Natural England over the April 2019 general licences debacle. NE acting chief executive Marion Spain and outgoing chairman Lord Blencathra looked like rats in traps. They repeatedly assured the committee that it was not their - Spain's and Blencathra's - fault, and that they had no alternative but to comply with Wild Justice's lawyers' wishes. Incoming chairman Tony Juniper sitting next to them was more assured - the problem took place before he arrived - but he made every effort to distance himself from it. Marion Spain's greatest misjudgement was her belief that pigeon shooting is a minority sport, undertaken by a few thousand farmers. She repeatedly failed to acknowledge or even apparently understand that the reason her organisation's email and website crashed and remained crashed for days was the sheer number of pigeon shooters trying to find out what was going on. Our website crashed, too. Fieldsports Channel broke the news story and had 85,000 hits on that page in 12 hours.    

The effect of Wild Justice on the other organisations, both pro and anti, is and certainly should be far-reaching. The League Against Cruel Sports has been losing ground, battling its members, and losing its staff. The effectiveness of Wild Justice versus the ineffectiveness of the League is hastening the League's decline. Do not confuse that with a loss of core support for an anti-hunting message among animal rights fundamentalists. I was on stage at Bird Fair in August 2019, presenting the case for grouseshooting, and the 400-strong audience was fervid. Anti-hunting campaigner Dominic Dyer's speeches in the summer at Hen Harrier Day and Bird Fair helped produce large numbers of supporters in black balaclavas to protest at grouse shoots in August 2019.
There have been failures. Chris Packham's anti driven grouseshooting Revive coalition has not done as well as Wild Justice. He would like to convert Revive's media success into national political clout. Adroit though he is with the media, so far that has not happened. In my opinion, he is lobbing shells from the media trenches into the parliamentary trenches, and he does not yet have the firepower. 

The Churchill of countrysports parliamentary support, James Gray MP, gave an excellent and funny speech to 80 diners at a grouse dinner I hosted in West London in October. In it, he pointed out that there would may not be a grouse dinner in 2020. There was laughter. He turned to those laughing and said, coldly: "There really may not be a grouse dinner in 2020," and they fell silent.
What else can an attack on the middle trenches achieve for the antis? Liverpool Council's decision to block the British Shooting Show from taking place in its exhibition centre is an interesting case. I went to that, and it quickly became obvious that pro-countrysports lobbying had not reached these urban, regional politicians. I tried to imagine the cost to BASC and Countryside Alliance of changing opinions at this level of public life and I could not. Councillors unanimously - even the Tory - backed mayor Joe Anderson's ban on the British Shooting Show. BASC put up a good quality spokesperson, Garry Doolan, who even has a Liverpool accent, but it was hopeless. In a bar afterwards, one of the councillors told me that the underlying issue was gun crime, even though most people in countrysports will tell you that the difference between gun crime and pheasant shooting was buried years ago. 

Perhaps a barrister would have worked in Liverpool. Only the law frightens officials. Alongside Garry, perhaps we could have had a lawyer pointing out that Joe Anderson's ban was discrimination and would result in a painful court case. Wild Justice did not need to field a lawyer here - but they could have done.
Where are the risks and the weak spots for the antis? They are over-reliant on a pliant media to support their middle-ground message. With the terrestrial broadcasters and most newspapers broadly aligned to anti-countrysports sentiment, they see no threat. But broadcasting is changing, as the barriers to viewers disintegrate, and it becomes possible, for example, to win the US presidency with a single Twitter account. In that world, anyone who relies on their position as the man on the Air Ministry roof, telling viewers what is going to happen, is going to look obsolete beside the kind of 'social broadcaster' who can put an arm around a viewer and persuade them by saying: 'This is what I think, this is  why I think it, but no need for you to think it yourself...'
The pro-fieldsports allies have not stepped up to this threat. They should continue their activities fighting rearguard in the media, and on the front foot with politicians, but they need to engage rapidly in the middle ground. 

Here's what my outfit is doing. At Fieldsports Channel, we have come to the conclusion that YouTube channels are or can be social movements with lightweight manifestos alongside their role as 'light ent'. This is partly thanks to the collision between entertainment and politics, and partly thanks to the social nature of the TV we offer.
We have successfully crowdfunded a journalist, starting in January 2020, part of whose job will be to punch the antis in the media. 

Next hire will be another crowdfunded body, whose job will be to take action on discrimination against countrysports in the media, and bullying against hunters and shooters. This will have a media dividend for us, but is more of a middle-ground job, fighting battles in Ofcom and IPSO, Facebook and YouTube. 

The anti-hunting side has already started using Facebook and YouTube's own policies to suppress pro-hunting content. In November 2019, we put out a film about violent hunt-saboteurs swinging martial arts weapons in front of children out with the Cheshire Hunt. The antis forced YouTube to take down that film on a cyber-bullying charge. We re-uploaded it to Vimeo. The antis forced Vimeo to take it down for copyright reasons, even though all of the footage belongs to us. They know that Vimeo does not have the resources to pursue most copyright cases so it simply takes down films when it receives complaints. There is going to be an element of attrition here, as both sides try to beat each other off social media.   

2020 will be an interesting year. The general licences review will be a test of the strength of Wild Justice's legal muscle. BASC has put resources into stopping their attack, but battlefield historians like me have yet to report an outcome. 

The Werritty report into driven grouseshooting, due in December  2020 will be a test of regional lobbying clout on both sides. With the environment brief devolved to the regions, all sides need to step up lobbying in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
I expect anti-hunters will consolidate their work in the middle ground and expand it. I hope the pro fieldsports allies find a salary between them to make the same attack. It hurts me to promote work for lawyers - but that's what will have to do.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The rise of the unofficial YouTube MCN

Want to start an MCN? Why? Lots of channel owners hate them and, if you are in a specialist consumer area such as hunting (which is where we are), you would need almost all the top hunting channels as members to meet the minimum eligible viewcount.

That has not stopped a new class of MCN from stepping up to the plate. It's the Website Curated Network. I'm calling it the WCN. Yup, you saw it here first.

It's a website that curates a lot of videos and even other posts from different sources. It operates outside the permission but with the encouragement of YouTube. It adds editorial value around each video with the aim of becoming a one-stop-shop for viewers - it offers links to useful stuff - and then it takes all that to advertisers in its market and to Google Adsense. And if YouTube bans any of the content, well the website can swap the video element over to Vimeo, Facebook or any of the other TV-embedding social media. The page URL on the website for that content remains the same.

Take WeShoot. It started out as a pure social media website and app based on the look and feel of Facebook. Since GDPR, it has become a hybrid news/social media site. Its main thrust is clayshooting but it covers all shooting sports. It views the world from a user point of view, asking what do you like? You can post your shooting/hunting related content, either directly to WeShoot or via a link from existing site. It even allows you to post via an RSS feed, so you can maintain your presence on YouTube or Facebook and post automatically on WeShoot at the same time. And it fills in the gaps with posts from established media such as the ISSF YouTube channel, which provides excellent coverage of the trapshooting scene. WeShoot was founded and remains funded by clay pigeon trap manufacturer Laporte. It has taken a while to get to where it is, but we believe at Fieldsports Channel that it has a bright future.

Another good one is HuntMag.eu. As well as original content, it's a place to curate what's going on in hunting across Europe, which gives it a pan-European campaigning edge. There is enough original content to make it a destination in its own right, and enough curated content to give it critical mass as an authoritative source. It is a pure news site and curates other, suitable videos and posts to reflect its editorial 'promise'. It is produced from Malta in multiple languages.

In Germany, our favourite is Geartester.de. Its editorial promise is good quality, honest tests of outdoor/hunting/shooting gear, which again comes from curated content as well as direct posts to the site.

These three websites provide 'honesty of basis'. From a consumer point of view, they have clear editorial direction, and from a subscriber point of view, they hold nothing back from the user. There are no secret password-protected areas that break the sense of trust a viewer has to have with a website.

This is where we are going with FieldsportsChannel.tv. We produce enough content every week to make us a destination in our own right, but we also have news programmes that call on videos and pictures from across the web and help give us 'news currency'.

There are plenty of new websites with one foot in the past, reflecting the 1990s when scheduled TV was normal and viewing figures opaque. New from the USA, GEN7 Outdoors streams scheduled outdoor programming 24/7 in 1080 HD using Streamotor.com and on to outlets suck as Roku. Each episode is aired three times a week, morning, afternoon and prime-time. All show’s past episodes are available on demand for 12 months. As the TV business shows again and again, the tactics of the past continue to make money. Audiences are slow to change their viewing habits.

GEN7 consists of TV shows such as Camo Crusade and Real Outdoors USA. At time of writing it claims 6.6m web-based views, 4.4m via TV apps and 2.1m elsewhere. This level of popularity is not borne out by its YouTube presence, which currently has just 86 subscribers, but I'll leave GEN7 to back up its claims.

The trend towards WCNs is not all carrot. There is stick, too. Hunters and shooters have a strong belief that YouTube is anti-hunting/shooting. After a flurry of community strikes earlier in 2018, there is little evidence of that now. But that's why Sootch00 went to GetZone.com, which currently hosts films using just JWPlayer.

So how do these WCNs make money? The answer is off-YouTube deals.

Formerly against YouTube's terms of service, throughout 2018, YouTube has been more and more happy to allow channels to make off-YouTube deals. The bosses at Google, which owns YouTube, realise that encouraging channels to talk to advertisers produces greater engagement from advertisers with YouTube. Fieldsports Channel makes almost all of its income from product placement deals.

There was a time when that would have had an impact on our editorial integrity. I ran the theatre at the Game Fair this year (2018) and asked the audience for a show of hands on this one: does it bother you that our videos are funded by product placement? They said no. They are quite capable of ignoring the products and enjoying the narrative anyway.

There are problems for being a WCN over a pure YouTube channel. When competing for ad dollars, it is a significant problem for these new websites that they have no standardised or believable method of viewcounting in the way Google/YouTube provides. The best they can do is aggregate the views they get on their member YouTube channels. Our viewcount on YouTube is more than 100 million and only 4% of those are em­bed­ded in ex­tern­al web­sites and apps, so we know we are a long way from making our website the core of our business.

The next step is for the WCNs to wake up to their position as, each one of them, a mini Netflix. Currently, TV viewers may construct their evening's viewing around cruising around YouTube or Netflix or the new website content curators. As WCNs and top quality channels now count their videos in the 1000s, viewers will learn to spend an evening on just one of them.



A quick word about subscription sites

Many video publishers look at this market and decide that viewer subscription is the way to deal with it. They don't need to initiate and maintain personal relationships with advertisers. It's a nice, clean, mass-market ad proposition: put €1 into the advertising machine and take €9.99 subscriptions out of the tray at the bottom.

Bearplay.tv is a new one, which serves the Scandinavian hunting market. Made up of broadcasters including Rasmus Boström and his dogs, the Bravader Brothers and Kristoffer Clausen, it collaborates closely with some of Nordic’s largest hunting magazines, such as Jaktjournalen+Jägare, Jaktmarker+Fiskevatten and the online magazine Vildmarken. You pay US$4.99/month to view. It goes up against Jaktflix.se which charges SKr42/month for its subscription TV.

Kristoffer Clauser also runs his own subscription TV site at Clausentv.com. Other subscription sites include Jaeger TV in Germany and MOTV in the USA. MOTV, which recently merged with DVD producer Hunters Video, charges US$9.99 a month and does not release viewing figures. Jaeger TV comes as part of a magazine subscription and claims 13,000 users. That's tiny compared to the audience YouTube hunting/shooting channels achieve but it provides an income that not far short of what the YouTube channels are making when they successfully leverage their WCN appeal.

Subscription works for Netflix and Amazon but we believe that, long term, it will not work in specialist consumer markets. Too many people in subscription TV are pointing to the good old days, pre-YouTube, when you could expect 20,000 people to pay you €15/month. YouTube has removed that market.

We hope to be proved wrong. If we are right, it remains to be seen whether these subscription channels will be able to make the jump to being ad-funded channels. But they are certainly well-placed to aggregate content from a number of YouTube and other TV producers, and make that pitch to advertisers.


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