In Comedy, Timing Is Everything

Press release time!



Arul Baskaran, Head of Online and Multiplatform has advised that he is leaving the ABC to pursue new opportunities in digital media.

Baskaran was instrumental in launching iview, Australia’s first on-line TV catch-up service which remains the country’s leading video-on-demand platform to this day.

Under his stewardship, iview has seen dramatic growth both in content and audience uptake. The number of monthly visitors has grown from 122,000 in 2008 to more than 1.3 million today, and the service has expanded from a single website to 13 platforms including tablets and mobile, gaming consoles and connected TV devices. In the last three years monthly program plays have grown from 3.5 million to more than 19.5 million, and according to Nielson Online, this makes iview Australia’s most widely used internet TV service.

Recently Baskaran played a key role in commissioning ABC’s first ‘straight to on-demand’ programs for iview, including the Fresh Blood  comedy initiative in partnership with Screen Australia, the post-apocalyptic web series Wastelander Panda, and Noirhouse, a web festival-winning comedy.

He was also responsible for ABC TV’s kids’ digital properties, overseeing the development of the ABC3 and ABC4Kids portals and commissioning a range of games, interactive content and apps for program brands including Play School, Bananas in Pyjamas, Giggle and Hoot,Dance Academy and Nowhere Boys, several of which have been recognized with international awards.

“It’s been a privilege to work at the ABC and to lead our digital expansion, especially with iview which is now a household name in Australia,” said Baskaran. “I’ve had the chance to head an exceptional team working on innovative products and I look forward to the next challenge,” he says.

ABC’s Director of Television, Richard Finlayson, said: “After nearly a decade with the ABC, Arul’s contribution to the growth of iview has been simply outstanding. He has grown a market-leading platform from virtually nothing to one that supports more than 200 million views a year and he leaves the ABC ideally positioned for the next phase of digital transformation.  We wish him every success in his future ventures.”

What do you make of all that then?

On the one hand, people leave jobs all the time, especially in the digital realm. Mr Baskaran had been with the ABC for close to a decade: no-one would raise an eyebrow if he simply decided it was time to move on.

On the other hand, here’s the guy in charge of the ABC’s iView platform leaving just a few weeks after the ABC made their first big push into online-first content by putting all of Jonah from Tonga on iView before airing it on ABC1. Considering you’d have to say Jonah‘s current ratings are, um, “not record-breaking“*, and that it doesn’t seem too far out there to think that giving the whole thing away for free before it aired may in part be responsible for those bad ratings, one thing and the other may be somehow connected.

As always, we have absolutely no idea what’s going on. For us to say anything even remotely like “The failure of Jonah‘s online distribution to do anything but lower the show’s free-to-air ratings may have led to the departure of the ABC’s iView chief” would be nothing but wild, baseless speculation on our behalf.

Does seem odd timing though.

*”No doubt ABC will look to the iview offering as indication that the core Chris Lilley audience had already seen the series, however while those numbers were good they were not record-breaking and they should have generated word of mouth rather than having the opposite effect.”

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  • simbo says:

    I think the reason Jonah From Tonga is failing is largely because of Jonah From Tonga, and, to a certain extent, Lilley’s last two shows showing diminishing returns. iview or no iview, you can’t make people watch a show they’re not interested in. And the general audience is largely over Chris Lilley.

    And he’s had a reasonable run – in comparison, “Kath and Kim” only got to four series, Lilley’s got five out of a similarly shallow set of cliches.

    Admittedly, Paul Fenech keeps on rolling on and on and on without developing any ideas whatsoever, but Fenech has the virtue of being exceptionally cheap. I get the feeling Lilley has had a pretty high asking price.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I’d say it’s more likely Baskaran left since under a Coalition government iView is ‘completed’. The Coalition wants to stop iView and ABCOnline from expanding its services and being more of a threat to private news, cable and media companies. Baskaran would’ve been left twiddling his thumbs. But now he can leave for the private sector, be remunerated more than adequately and do some exciting stuff.