Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Making iPlayer more like ‘telly’

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

Share |

For Broadcast March 28, 2013

‘TV wanderers’ browsing VoD sites for content online are the future, says Kate Bulkley

There’s been plenty of buzz about YouTube’s original content push around genre ‘verticals’ such as comedy, sport and health and beauty. Google thinks it can monetise them effectively, either by convincing advertisers to take the global online platform more seriously, or by putting some kind of pay model in place. The latter is more mooted than announced, but the intention is clear: a better standard of content will increase the economic fortunes of the platform.

So why is the BBC getting involved with online content? It is creating original shows by established players like Peter Kay and will offer them first on iPlayer, alongside six short-form BBC3 drama pilots.

Of course, the goal for the Beeb is not to attract advertising but to appeal to the part of the audience that is heading online to watch TV. So a platform that was all about distribution is now also about being really creative, and about the BBC staying ahead of the online curve and reaching younger and more digitally savvy viewers.

The fundamental question for all broadcasters and content creators is how are audiences discovering programmes? The BBC’s figures show that the audience is increasingly “watching telly” online, in a traditional and serendipitous way. It says a remarkable 42% of people visiting iPlayer these days have no agenda about what they are coming to watch. That compares with the 25% of people who went to iPlayer in 2008 without a specific programme in mind.

That is a stunning increase in ‘TV wanderers’. It’s like a much-improved form of channel-hopping in an environment where search and recommendation is the sine qua non rather than scrolling down aimlessly through a seemingly endless EPG.

TV catch-up sites, be they BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or whetever, are becoming go-to destinations for everyday viewers, and once they are in the BBC iPlayer or YouTube environment, it’s simply a matter of figuring out how to signpost the discovery of even more TV that viewers might find attractive.

If the viewer experience is any good, the audience will reward you with their loyalty. Talk about taking a page out of the TV channel branding and loyalty handbook. While I am on the subject of loyalty, think about a brand like Tesco that is using ‘free’ online TV – and soon books and music – to add another layer of stickiness to its most loyal shoppers, aka its 16 million Tesco Club Card members.

So the BBC is in good company with all this digital derring-do. No less than Simon Cowell will use YouTube for his next talent show, and top indie suit Andy Taylor recently left All3Media to start a new production company focused on launching shows on YouTube.

The BBC is smart to make space for BBC iPlayer originated content. Not only could the new Peter Kay show Car Share end up on a BBC linear channel but, more importantly, it should help seed part of a new online discovery ecosystem that can only continue to grow. Take that, YouTube.

Columns Menu