A big task

Published March 28, 2022

The Taskmaster logo on a white envelope with red seal

The ever expanding list of streaming services is a constant topic of conversation and consternation amongst TV enthusiasts, particularly as the current trend is for more and more silos popping up with selected own properties, and fewer general access places like Netflix.

I hadn’t expected the distillation of shows to go down to such a granular level as Taskmaster have taken it. The brilliant comedy panel show, that features a selection of comedians trying to complete silly tasks to gain subjective points from the Taskmaster himself, has become a global phenomenon, and that, in part, is the problem.

In the UK, we can watch this show on various Channel 4 platforms, as the broadcaster bought the rights from original broadcaster Dave. But other territories don’t have the same access, particularly in the US, where remakes have not broken the same ground. Taskmaster’s executive producer Jon Thoday has specifically mentioned that US audiences seem to be enjoying the show on YouTube and so giving them access seemed like the next step.

Unable to secure a long term deal across the pond, our Taskmaster heroes took the unprecedented step of creating their own streaming service allowing it to be streamed globally. Like other services, it’s a reasonable price, £5.99 a month, until you realise you’re only getting the one show… either you need to catch up on previous series, or you rewatch on a regular basis, or… there’s more coming.

The Taskmaster’s Assistant, Alex Horne, says: “I also like the idea that everything is in one place and we can do what we want with it. So we can put episodes up from other countries, and we can do some extra bits just for this. But we do like the idea of having the complete collection in one place, I suppose, because we’ve built up a weird little world.”

It’s an interesting idea, but presumably one only for supremely successful shows that can either garner a decent level of subscribers or aren’t reliant on the income. It’s a great way for creators to keep control of their property, but a show by show basis of subscription can’t be the future of TV - it would make stumbling on shows very difficult, and would not represent good value to an ever-cash strapped society.

And so, I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s a fun experiment, another way in which Taskmaster pushes the boundaries and has fun with the format, but am I going to subscribe? At this point, I just don’t know.

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