TV turns the tables on online
By Kate Bulkley
For Broadcast April 20, 2011
Top brains are crossing over into web world, reports Kate Bulkley
Since the worldwide web appeared in 1991 (amazing, isn’t it?) the likes of YouTube, Yahoo!, Twitter and Facebook have grabbed global headlines more often than any TV network. They are the guys and gals, we’ve repeatedly been told, who have the best ideas for the future of video.
But now it seems the tables could be turning a little, at least here in the UK, with some of the top TV brains starting to cross over to the online world, rather than the other way around.
Jonathan Lewis cut his interactive teeth at Channel 5 overseeing the success of programmes like The Gadget Show online, and he’s now been recruited as UK managing director at Vevo, a company backed by Abu Dhabi Media, Universal Music and Sony Music.
For the past year in the US, Vevo has been working to monetise music videos on the web better by reducing the number of companies that can sell advertising against them. Using the clout of its backers and the logic of its idea of reducing supply to increase demand, Vevo has become a music video super-distributor. The site is set to launch in the UK later this month and Lewis’s TV experience will be a major asset.
He’s not the only TV exec to attract online eyes. Ben McOwen Wilson was head of all things online and interactive at ITV in the days when Michael Grade pooh-poohed Google and YouTube as parasites. Last week, McOwen Wilson was named the new head of – yes, you guessed it – YouTube in GB and Ireland.
In the past fortnight, the company has said it is moving into live broadcasting (that sounds a lot like TV) and it is reported that it is also earmarking $100m to create more professional content for its service, even opening up an office in Hollywood to give it better access to acting talent.
These moves make sense because, with the expected surge in connected TVs and tablets, there will be less and less difference between the two worlds. The winners will be those who can figure out how best to monetise their content, and the TV guys will add a whole new raft of learning about how best to do this.
Online advertising in the UK reached £4bn last year, and one of the fastest-growing destinations for that money was social media, where, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, UK online users spend a quarter of their time. Most broadcasters have built Facebook pages for their shows, but there is more in the works. For example, Facebook recently created a mobile app that allows users to ‘check in’ when they are watching a particular TV show, with the idea of creating virtual watching parties and a hub where people can talk about that show, all of which could then be monetised.
The social media network site has also created a paid voting application, so people can vote on it rather than using SMS. For the broadcaster, the split will be 70/30, which is a better margin than a broadcaster would typically earn from premium SMS. No surprise, then, that ITV’s managing director of online Robin Pembroke is looking at closer integration with Facebook. And he will also probably be having lunch with YouTube’s new man soon. That would be an interesting conversation to eavesdrop on.