Enhance the programme brand online

The recent headline in the Independent was enough to make any station exec throw up their TV dinner.  It seemed straightforward enough, “Google’s UK advertising revenues to surpass Channel 4’s”, but what seems a simple statement carries enormous implications for the broadcast industry. 

Traditional free-to-air TV is now undergoing a systematic attack that has had more than a few commentators ask a priest to carry out the last rites.  Nick Waters, European Chief of media agency Mindshare, added his own not-insignificant tuppence worth to Channel 4’s disclosure and said that ‘there is a danger free-to-air broadcasters will get caught in a death spiral”. 

Whilst it’s too early for a funeral march, it’s clear that Joe Public is spending more leisure time on the net and less on television.  You could argue that terrestrial TV has been its own worst enemy with some of the tripe it’s served up over the past few years, but programme content is not the issue.  With the internet ad market already more than half the size of the TV industry with ad revenues of £2 billion, structural change is happening anyway.

What to do?  If you can’t beat them……It’s time the television industry viewed the internet not as a threat but as an opportunity.  To date, however, many broadcasters have held onto the interactive rights and simply ‘warehoused’ them to prevent giants like AOL, Google, MSN etc purchasing them and setting up their own interactive ‘channels’. Broadcasters have argued that if this happened it would dramatically weaken their programming propositions.  But what’s preventing broadcasters developing their own interactive offerings?
Look at Big Brother. The Channel 4 Big Brother website recorded 200 million page hits during series 3 with nearly 200,000 people logging on to the site every day. Another £500,000 was generated by charging 25,000 fans £9.95 a month to watch live video streaming on the internet.
Supernanny is the latest to grasp the nettle with maker Ricochet rolling out an interactive Supernanny website to nearly 50 countries worldwide.  Supernanny.com is a dynamic, supportive online community for time poor parents who need practical parenting advice, fast.  It’s a perfect fit with its broadcast namesake and captures the fun spirit of the TV show whilst extending the brand to cater to a range of parenting topics.
Channel 4’s Andy Duncan states that the TV industry is too “backward looking and underestimates the scale of change that is going on”.  But it needn’t be this way.  Broadcasters are sitting on vast goldmines of intellectual property that are just waiting to be exploited online. In fact the UK content industry is the largest in proportion to GDP in the world and second only to the US in terms of billings.  Quite simply, the ‘storing’ of interactive rights is seriously damaging the wellbeing of the TV industry and is a huge missed opportunity.  Time to change, I’d say.

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