Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Teaming up to beat the SVoDs

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast March 13, 2019

2019 VoD and joint ad platforms can help broadcasters carve out a healthy future, says Kate Bulkley

As we totter the cusp of a no-deal Brexit, TV has been fighting back with its own ‘B words’, most notably: Britbox and broadcaster VoD (BVoD).

I was at two television events last week – an Enders/Deloitte conference in central London and under a circus tent in a damp field in Sherwood Forest for The Big TV Festival – and those words were prominently on display.

ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall and BBC director general Tony Hall both see their planned UK subscription VoD service Britbox as an important fight-back tool for public service broadcasters against the profile and audience pull of Netflix.

But as former BBC strategist and now head of the Confederation of British Industry Carolyn Fairbairn quipped at the Enders/Deloitte event “too bad it’s 10 years late”.

It may be late to the party, but McCall believes Britbox will work. She told the audience of media grandees that “many thousands [of potential subscribers] have already registered”.

It will work, she says, because we Brits will be interested in subscribing to both Britbox and Netflix as they will perform different jobs.

Creating a ‘Netflix killer’ would be a much more satisfying result but the UK TV sector doesn’t have anything approaching the vast budgets required to do that. Oh well.

Instead, Britbox’s laudable ambition is to gather the best of British programming – first archive and ultimately commissions. Given much of this content is already on Sky and Virgin Media, one hopes Channel 4 joins the club.

C4’s problem with joining Britbox is that its own advertiser-funded VoD service All 4 does well, and it doesn’t own content.As chief commercial officer Jonathan Allan told an audience of media planners in the forest, there is an “opportunity cost” to moving into SVoD. Because C4 is a publisher-broadcaster, getting box-set rights for Britbox will be hard.

“BVoD is already seen by broadcasters as the panacea for the creeping decline of linear TV viewing and concomitant adspend”Given the UK’s current terms of trade, one might imagine the broadcaster having rather difficult conversations with indies.

BVoD is already seen by broadcasters as the panacea for the creeping decline of linear TV viewing and concomitant ad spend. ITV last week noted the reach and advertising spend aimed at 16-34s by ITV in 2008 was 100% through linear TV watching. In 2018, a fifth of that was achieved through BVoD.Sky Media managing director John Litster last week argued that overall TV viewing is still robust, despite “peaks and troughs”, and that linear views aggregated with PVR, catch-up and what Barb calls ‘other viewing’ (including Netflix and box-set viewing) are broadly equal to the audiences of the past.

ITV argues the commercial TV fightback strategy is to “adapt and diversify” and Britbox is a great example of that; so too are plans by both ITV and C4 to increasingly provide targeted advertising solutions using programmatic tools.

The commercial broadcasters are exploring a joint ad platform and while that seems almost unimaginable given the past rivalry of these commercial broadcasters, times have changed and teaming up is the new way to beat the likes of Netflix at their own game – or at least, carve out a healthy future.

To that end, Sky, ITV and C4 have restructured their ad-selling operations, with C4’s Allan saying last week: “We need to speak [the right] business language and get into the boardroom to talk about the power of tele vision.”The new mantra is about asking its brand clients what TV can do to help. ITV’s Williams summed up the plan by saying the broadcaster must get closer to clients, set up creative partnerships and build a more “addressable” future.Maybe a third ‘B’ needs to be added to the broadcaster toolbox for the future: Britbox, BVoD and brands.

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