Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Tapping into a new mindset

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast July 18, 2013

Bridging TV and online gap will attract millennials, says Kate Bulkley

One topic on my TV brain at the moment is what channels will look like for the pivotal millennial generation – the difficult 16 to 34 year-old crew that everyone wants to attract.

Will they watch regular TV channels? Will they watch video recommended by their Facebook friends? Will they pay for TV? Will their viewing habits change as they get older?

One thing is for sure: a channel these days has multiple definitions. Online, YouTube channels are blooming and operators such as Machinima, Rightster, Base 79 and Awesomeness TV, among others, are attracting lots of attention, both from growing online audiences and from serious financial backers like Dreamworks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg and ex-News Corp TV honcho Peter Chernin.

These new players are making traditional TV executives such as BBC director of television Danny Cohen revise how they see audiences.

At Broadcast’s Commissioning & Funding Forum this month, Cohen said his competitors go beyond ITV and Sky to the likes of Netflix, YouTube and Spotify. The BBC is fighting for “screen time”, he says. “It’s not about audience TV time, but media minutes overall.”

Of course, there is still a lot of life in ye olde TV channels. They’re still being launched, even in mature TV markets such as the UK, the most recent being gaming channel Ginx on Virgin Media. But there’s a catch: a new TV channel today needs a USP beyond simply being a niche brand.

As an ex-MTV head honcho, Ginx boss Michiel Bakker knows a thing or two about multichannel rollouts.

Ginx, with a staff of just 25 and some 350 hours of programming, is up to 10 million subs following the Virgin launch. Bakker calls Ginx a “Groundhog Day experience” for him, but with a twist: he is targeting millennials – or “natural-born multi-screeners” who, as gamers, view high-speed broadband as a basic utility, up there with water and electricity.

Ginx’s USP is similar to that of BT Sports: it helps sell broadband as much as it attracts a young audience.

Bakker believes, however, that TV and online are still fundamentally different: Ginx is available online and, he believes, goes some way towards bridging the two worlds.

Video-game reviews plus short ‘shows’ around topics like mobile gaming are all presented in a TV-like way, suitable for a 50-inch screen, whereas YouTube members might only record other gamers playing a video game.

Meanwhile in the US, Participant Media is launching Pivot TV on 1 August, both as a pay-TV channel and a live, streamed channel via a downloadable app. Its USP is that it is ‘socially aware’ telly that encourages millennials to get involved.

A talk show called TakePart Live will dissect the daily news headlines and other programmes will have ‘authentic’ voices including a docu-soap featuring Meghan McCain, the outspoken daughter of Senator John McCain, exploring topics trending on Twitter.

As with Ginx, the idea is to try to bridge the gap between TV and online and tap into the online communities of interest that millennials take as second nature.

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