Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

The gift that keeps on giving

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast September 24, 2015

Data can play a big role in programming success, says Kate Bulkley

There are still 100 days until Christmas, so it may be a bit early to be thinking about what you want from Santa. But even this far out, I would guess that for most broadcasters the answer would be data. And not just any data, but the right data - and as much as they can get.

Netflix might be the digital poster child for data, but plenty of others are beginning to catch up in this area. Want proof? Then consider my broadcastnow. co.uk story this week on Youview’s ambition to provide rich data to its stakeholders, including the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5. That’ll put the wind up the skirt of Sky, which has to date held the set-top box data high ground.

Rupert Murdoch can’t get enough of the stuff. His Sky Europe operation already has more than 19 million TV customers sending him census data about (almost) every click and channel change, and now News Corp (that’s the print bit of the Murdoch empire) has bought Unruly for £114m. You guessed it, it’s a data company that will make sure the video on his newspapers’ websites is properly measured and optimised.

Of course, data also figured at the RTS biennial get-together in Cambridge last week. AMC boss Josh Sapan told us he has a whole data department that provides business analytics and marketing info, but he also stressed that - despite claims by Netflix to the contrary - statistics alone do not the best programmes make. That’s still a creative process best left to creative people. Coming from the man behind hit series The Walking Dead (pictured) and Mad Men, those are words worth heeding.

Sapan pointed out that no channel or broadcaster can tell its viewers where to go any more - there’s too much choice and social media is too loud. The best place to be is either making really big hit shows or creating specialist fare. Being in the muddied middle risks getting lost in the noise.

Big changes in the distribution and consumption of programming mean that OTT and big pay-TV bundles in the US are going head to head, putting pressure on the share prices of the traditional media players, including AMC.

In this environment, big data is too important to be ignored. Youview’s 2 million active set-top boxes have brought it to the tipping point of being useful. Similar to Channel 4’s database of more than 12 million registered on-demand users, there is real value in the knowledge that emerges from such a large, engaged group.

Meanwhile, Barb is becoming more sophisticated with its panel data, and there are plans afoot to plug its figures into the Youview census. This will create what Youview hopes will be a “generational hop” and a step towards a numbers nirvana - a data dreamscape.

If Youview brings these elements together successfully - the legacy benefits of panel data, the granularity of census data and the profile information of VoD registration - it could be the Christmas present with the biggest ribbon. Even better, it would be the gift that keeps on giving.

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