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Voice-over narration is commonplace in many areas of television. Voice-overs can be used in children’s television, games shows, documentaries and in general broadcasting. Narrators are closely associated with actors, as they often come from similar backgrounds. Voice-over narration is frequently overlooked as a career, but can be very lucrative.
Narration is about more than just having a nice voice. Voice-over narrators must pick up on their particular style, with some channels wanting specific accents or tones of voice. Most narrators are trained in acting or public speaking, being skilled in voice projection and tone.
Voice-overs can become very distinctive, and can really stand out as a distinctive feature of a programme or channel. For example, everyone recognises the voice-over narrator for “The X-Factor” and E4, with the loud, old-fashioned and eccentric accent of Peter Dickson or the unmistakeable north-eastern accent of Big Brother's Marcus Bentley.
Being a continuity announcer is another way of using a voice-over talent. These are the people who get hired by particular channels to introduce programmes in commercial breaks, and to announce any disruptions to service or special programming. On the larger channels, continuity announcers work live, creating a connection with the viewer and promoting a channel’s programming.
Getting a permanent job in narration is very difficult with most narrators hiring agents to find them work on a freelance basis. Many actors turn to narration for extra money as the role is not always financially stable. Building up contacts, experience and a distinctive and marketable personal style is the best way to ensure success in this profession.