Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Driving the demand for data

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

Share |

For Broadcast June 02, 2011

SeeSaw’s demise puts the spotlight on YouView, says Kate Bulkley.

If you work in the TV business, it’s tough these days to sit down in front of the box and just chill out with one of your favourite shows. You find yourself thinking: should I be interacting with this? Maybe I should tweet or update my status, or check in with my Foursquare friends. Then there’s catch-up TV on the PC, the iPad or the PVR. How are people ‘using’ TV? And how is the industry going to capitalise on it?

Channel 4 boss David Abraham made this the leitmotif of his recent speech to the Royal Television Society, saying that control of audience data would become the “new oil, or soil, of television”. He says data usage by players such as Google and Facebook should be investigated by Ofcom and the topic included in the upcoming Communications Act.

Knowing your audience has always been key, but as the metrics of the web increasingly become part of the economics of TV, there is a lot to play for. “I understand advertising,” the St Luke’s co-founder told the RTS audience. “And what matters is the value of media.”

The evolution in how we track that value is changing faster than traditional TV media agencies might like. The SkyView panel of 33,000 Sky boxes is already six years old, and the granularity of the data being tracked by the likes of Google and Facebook goes much deeper and wider, and is a cause of concern for many. Web economics was even one of the focal points at the G8 summit in France last week.

I was thinking about this transition in business models after online video site SeeSaw announced it was set to close down last week. For its owner Arqiva, SeeSaw was a way to expand its TV transmission horizons in a post-analogue world, and shift itself closer to consumers. But the technology Arqiva bought from the failed Project Kangaroo hoovered up millions in investment and the site never got traction with advertisers nor subscribers.

That said, web video is growing: online adults in the US say 14% of their total video viewing is via the internet, according to a new Forrester research study.

For those who have connected their TV to the internet, a whopping 28% of their viewing time now comes from the internet, clearly “cannibalising traditional viewing time and content,” says Forrester.

With SeeSaw dead, where does this leave Arqiva’s investment in YouView? Being on YouView would have benefited SeeSaw, and helped make Arqiva a key player in the new world of connected devices. Not any more. Former YouView chief technology officer Anthony Rose says the impact could be significant: “Now Arqiva has exited SeeSaw, I’m not sure what’s left for it in YouView.”

That would put further pressure on the partnership and its chairman Lord Sugar, given the many delays to the project.

When former ITV chief operating officer John Cresswell took on the job of Arqiva chief exec in January, its future included SeeSaw and YouView. Cresswell says Seesaw’s demise “does not effect Arqiva’s status as a shareholder in YouView”, but the strategic thinking behind its ongoing involvement is harder to see.

Columns Menu