Ever since the first details of GLOW emerged last week, the more credulous elements of the Scottish media have been pissing themselves with excitement over what’s being dubbed “Glasgow’s answer to TOWIE and Made in Chelsea”, the hit scripted-reality TV shows.
With eleven “stars” now revealed, the programme makers are promising “Glasgow’s first reality glamour series… looking into the lives of a group of young, stylish, successful and glamorous individuals”, and that they will air weekly, 40 minute episodes from Thursday 20 October.
Mere days after they were unveiled to the world – and after apparently doing little more than a photoshoot – there’s already stories being churned out about what one of the “stars” had for dinner (octopus apparently, cause he’s a “leg man”), rumours of relationships, and another claiming to be the “Scottish Mark Wright”. We know plenty about those appearing on the show: who they’ve been out on dates with (someone from The Scheme; a Rangers player), the businesses they own, how only three of the 11 actually live in the city … and how they’re going to show an alternative side of Glasgow from “a rough city with a culture of drinking and fighting” (have they ever seen TOWIE or Geordie Shore? It’s mostly drinking and fighting.)
So far, so familiar. But thousands of column inches later, we know precisely nothing about who is actually behind GLOW, who is funding it, its budget, or what form it will really take. Despite the claims of its producers that it will “highlight Scottish culture at its best”, there is little indication of why anyone outside the G postcode area will – or should – care in the slightest, despite the best efforts of over-excited showbiz hacks, fantasising about reality TV glamour on their doorstep.
Because, despite all the hype, GLOW is the first output by the company behind it. Producing broadcast quality TV is enormously expensive. Even relatively low budget factual programmes put out just to Scottish audiences typically come in at around £50,000 in costs per hour of broadcast time.
But GLOW does not have a broadcaster behind it, or even an established production company, and instead will be screened on a dedicated website and mobile app. So who is funding it? That much remains unclear, although we can speculate. GRTV Ltd – reportedly the producers – were registered with Companies House in er, July 2016. They have yet to file any accounts nor to appoint any directors, despite the latter being a basic legal requirement for a functioning business. [Edit: records were amended on 14 October to reflect the appointment of a director]
It is also unclear how many are working on the show. Glasgow TV sources report that there has been no evidence of GRTV advertising for freelancers through the usual routes. The Only Way Is Essex – which coverage of GLOW has endlessly compared it to – shoots each episode in four days. But it also employs 130 full time staff “required to tease out stories and situations from its cast of real people” and each one “costs double what an episode of a soap like Hollyoaks does”.
However, GRTV is registered at a city centre address that is also the home of Reflex Blue, a digital marketing company, who themselves are then registered at their owner’s house in Milngavie. We can also reveal that the domain for GLOW’s website – glasglow.tv – was purchased by the Creative Director of Reflex Blue earlier this year. Furthermore, GLOW’s producer Stephanie Docherty is also a former employee of the firm.
Reflex Blue are an established advertising firm with around 12 employees, who have managed campaigns on behalf of a range of high profile clients, including Tennents and the NHS, providing “bespoke solutions in an ever changing market.” They also played a key role in setting up the Rangers activist-shareholder group Rangers First, which latterly merged into the fan group Club 1872. The success of their marketing assistance – including video production – saw one of their employees appointed to the Rangers First board and their owner interviewed by the Financial Times about the club.
Certainly – despite playing up the “glamour” and “drama” side of things – GLOW are not shying away from the commercial aspect of their show, saying during their launch:
Because we are airing the show on a dedicated online channel it means we are not restricted to the usual broadcasting regulations.
This can really only mean one thing – that they will not be subject to the usual OFCOM rules around advertising and product placement. And, as this website has revealed, with the fledgling producer’s clear connections to an established marketing company, it probably shouldn’t be any great surprise if the programme turns out to be little more than 40 minutes of sponsored content for Merchant City nightclubs and suburban boutiques, with what passes for our local media cheerleading from the sidelines. But whether that will be adequate to drum up enough cash for anything approaching a watchable production remains to be seen. If the below clip is anything to go by, at least they’ve got a few weeks to work on their autocue delivery before the first “episode” airs…
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