Brexit, Alliances, SVOD: the Future of TV in the UK

October 15, 2018

“The one thing that is very clear is that the appetite for TV in the UK, even globally, is not reducing. People are really keen on watching quality content. I think it’s really important that we don’t lose sight of that, and what we have to do is make sure that we transition from being a traditional broadcaster to being a data-driven, digital, future-facing business.”

What is the state of the UK advertising market?

Despite uncertainty in the wider economy and concerns around Brexit the TV market over the first six months of the year has been remarkably resilient. We’re seeing a shift in the sectors our advertisers are coming from and a lot of new advertisers are digital native brands who are starting to really see the positive effects TV is having on their business both in the short and long term.

Why do you feel it’s important to give more visibility to television?

We’ve always had this very privileged position in the advertising market. We were very must-have, television was the only place that you could really deliver reach and scale, but the world is changing. We’ve got a new competitive set and I think it’s important for us to collaborate to sell the power of TV and sell it as an industry. That’s why we came together with Channel 4 and Sky for initiatives such as the Big TV Festival which was aimed at the next generation of brand-builders from advertisers and media agencies.

What was the outcome of the Big TV Festival?

ITV is a market leader and I think it’s market leading behaviour to bring an industry together, to sell itself. The benefits are that if we are successful in bringing more revenue into TV, the whole industry will share the benefits. We came away from it feeling that it really worked because of the great feedback we received from those who attended and requests from media agencies to replicate the sessions we produced. Out of it came further ideas for us to collaborate as an industry around research, data and ad-tech and plans to host it again next year are already in place.

What are your expectations for your partnership with RTL Group through RTL AdConnect?

We’ve had a commercial relationship with RTL for a number of years now, and we’re looking to strengthen it. Where Google and Facebook have access to global or pan-European Marketing Directors, as a national broadcaster we don’t really get an opportunity to influence at a global or European level. So for us we see a great opportunity working alongside RTL AdConnect to collaborate once again to sell the power of television to a wider market and, in time, on further mutually beneficial initiatives.

How do you feel about your client-agency relationship these days?

Moving forward we are going to invest much more in a direct-to-advertiser strategy. We have really good relationships with clients, but we want to scale that up as much as we can. Equally, we are looking to invest heavily in data and in building an ad-tech ecosystem specifically for the television broadcaster VOD market.

What’s your data strategy?

Our vision is to try and unite the TV industry around a common standard, creating more sophisticated target audiences, working with clients and looking to see if we can embed their data with ours to create more bespoke commercial partnerships. In a linear world we control or use industry standard partners to build our linear advertising value chain. What we want to do is replicate that in our digital advertising value chain so that we’re not beholden to third-party ad-tech businesses

What is your content production, distribution and diversification strategy?

We’re in a relatively unique position in the UK in that we are an integrated producer-broadcaster, so we produce and distribute a lot of our own content. We’ve grown into a global production business over the last 7-8 years. We’ve launched a business in the US in partnership with the BBC called Britbox, which is a British content SVOD business that has had a successful first year we’re seeing subscribers grow. We’ve also launched our ITV Hub+ subscription model in the UK which again is seeing steady growth and the next step in our strategy is to build a more scaled SVOD proposition.

What are the prospects for addressable TV advertising?

For us, our priority is building a really sophisticated addressable proposition on the ITV Hub. Arguably that is addressable TV because over 50% of our views on ITV Hub are on big screens. So our priority in the short term is to do that really well, because we own the data and we will own or control the adtech.

What is the impact of GDPR on UK broadcasters?

ITV has a data proposition that is, and will be, GDPR-compliant. We’re hearing that programmatic trading online in the UK has paused as lots of publishers and agencies are getting to grips with it, so that might be an opportunity for us in the short term.

How can we solve the lack of trust in advertising?

My personal view is that the decline in trust in advertising is an online issue as opposed to a TV issue. In all the research we do, television is the most trusted medium. I think the decline in trust is all around ad fraud, viewability, transparency and brand safety. We see that as an opportunity because television is transparent, fraud-free, viewable and brand safe.

What type of data do you collect via the ITV Hub platform and how do you use it?

We now have mandatory registration on the ITV Hub on all platforms and we collect some basic fields of first-party data. We use third-party data sets to create more sophisticated audiences, anonymously matching the data and creating bespoke audiences for advertisers.

What is your user recruitment and retention strategy?

We now have over 26 million registered users on the ITV Hub. We had unbelievable success in June and July driven by the World Cup and Love Island. If you aggregated the views we had on the ITV Hub in July alone, it would have been the 10th or 11th biggest television channel in the UK.

What is the recipe for a successful format like Love Island?

It’s not often that you find a very successful format, they come along once every 5/10 years. With Love Island, season one started with half a million viewers on linear, and it’s doubled every year. I think the reasons why we were getting those kind of numbers are because it’s a very young show, and was on every night at nine o’clock, so there was a real need to either watch it live or catch up quickly.

Do you develop special content for the ITV Hub?

At the moment the ITV Hub is a combination of catch-up TV and relevant box-sets. Certainly our view is to start moving bespoke short form content onto ITV Hub, but I think it may be a while before we commission long-form content specifically for it.

Do you see trends on OTT?

Interestingly, we’re seeing significant growth in live, simulcast viewing on the ITV Hub. We’re seeing, as I said earlier, a lot of views occurring on big screen TVs as opposed to mobile.

Is there a different way to promote a programme for the ITV Hub platform than for TV? 

We jointly promote linear and the Hub on our main channels. So if you’re watching ITV you’ll see the shows coming up, but equally you’ll see promos for catch up and box sets.

What is the typical profile of an ITV Hub user?

It’s difficult to say “typical” because it all depends on the content that they’re watching. But in general they tend to be younger, compared to linear.

Where do you stand compared to other UK platforms?

I think we are significantly bigger than All 4, and we are closing the gap between ourselves and the BBC. The BBC is an advertising-free proposition, and they’re a much bigger organisation in terms of content than we are.

How do you see the future of TV?

I am very optimistic about the future of TV, whether you look at it creatively, technologically or commercially. Creatively, I don’t think television content has ever been as good as it is today. Technologically, TV isn’t going anywhere, it’s going everywhere. You can now watch television wherever, whenever you want. And commercially, we’ve never had more to offer advertisers.

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