IN THE LATEST BIG FINISH podcast (19 August 2018), executive producer Nick Briggs speaks candidly about some of the commercial challenges the company faces in securing a viable financial return on some of the audio titles in its catalogue: including Survivors.
The issue was explored in response to a listener’s email enquiring about the possibility of Big Finish producing a series of Doomwatch audios (either as a contemporary reboot or by recreating some of the many ‘lost episodes’ from the original). Briggs explained that, while this was an enticing prospect, the company doubted that there would be sufficient listeners out there willing to buy the finished product – and revealed that other key titles (outside the Doctor Who universe) were facing the same challenge:
“Would we ever consider it? We would. But you know – rights. The trouble is with series like this is that they’re well remembered and people like me go crazy for them. But there aren’t enough of us, really, to make it viable. We’ve found this with diminishing sales for Survivors and The Omega Factor – some of the best things we do. But they have a very limited number of vociferous fans who love it, but they’re not the big hitters. And you have to pay for the rights, and then the productions are very expensive to make, even though we’ve got certain cost-cutting budgetary measures we can put into place. So that’s the problem with something like Doomwatch. I would, in an instant, in a heartbeat, if it were just down to personal preference, I would start work on it tomorrow.”
One financial factor that has been impacting on Big Finish’s physical sales more generally is the rising cost of CD production, caused by the relative weakness of Sterling in the run-up to Brexit: as most of the company’s CD materials and services are purchased from overseas.
The cost of our producing CDs has massively risen: none of which we have passed on to customers. We’re having to take that hit ourselves, which is quite a blow. Everything is fine… we are absorbing that. One way to help us is to cut down on the materials in the CD and packaging production.
Slimming down on packaging will also help Big Finish make good on its commitment to reduce the amount of plastic and other materials used in its production process. With more of Big Finish’s sales moving to digital downloads, the company has been reviewing the approach it will take to offering CDs for sale in the future. One option is to press a fixed single run of compact discs, or to guaranteed that a CD version will be available for a fixed period of time – with digital downloads available for as long as licensing arrangements permit.
The most obvious way for Survivors enthusiasts to encourage Big Finish to continue producing its superlative Survivors audios (in whichever digital format) is to commit to pre-ordering the upcoming series and to pick up copies of any of the previous series that they have yet to acquire.
Series 1-7 can still be ordered from the Big Finish web site, along with the audio book version of Terry Nation’s 1976 Survivors novel, narrated by Carolyn Seymour.
“I passionately love Survivors,” Briggs confirmed to Survivors: A World Away. “And it’s been one of my most rewarding creative challenges working on the series, providing the incidental music.”
Briggs’ comments on the viability of Doomwatch audios, and on the sales of Survivors and The Omega Factor, can be heard at 46ms:05s into the podcast.
UPDATE, 4 SEPTEMBER 2018: In the Listeners’ Emails section of the 3 September 2018 Big Finish podcast, Nick Briggs again discusses (albeit briefly) the future of the company’s Survivors audio adventure range (around 36mins into the broadcast):
There is another series of Survivors coming, that I have to do the music for; Benji has done the sound design. So there is one more. There’s no more of The Omega Factor
As well as confirming the cancellation of The Omega Factor, Briggs’ comments clearly indicate that – unless sales improve decisively, and reach the levels achieved by earlier releases – series nine of Survivors audios (due for release in June 2019) will be the last in the current run.