IBC2017: ITV and C4 executives explained their business strategies driving audience engagement in an OTT dominated world.

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Delegates at IBC2017

Audience engagement and curated content are both top priorities for ITV and Channel 4, executives shared with delegates during the IBC conference session Direct to Consumer: Enhancing the audience experience through OTT.

Blending traditional broadcast scheduling with data in order to meet audience expectations is key to sharing content and maintaining audience reach.

ITV Commercial Director Online Faz Aftab explained how traditional programme scheduling and new business strategic priorities are central to building a stronger customer relationship to engage and expand audience reach as well as test new business models.

She said: “ITV Hub is the point where many of our strategic priorities meet to build a direct relationship with our customer.”

ITV has quadrupled its audience in the last four years with over 20 million registered users. Similarly, Channel 4 has built its All 4 on-demand service that now contributes over 10% of all corporate revenue. 

“One size is not going to fit all, so how do we make personalisation and recommendations to help our audiences discover the breadth of content that we have?” Aftab said.

ITV’s Love Island was the biggest on-demand programme in the UK, with 40% of total viewing occurring on ITV Hub. Aftab explained “personalisation is key” to a successful on-demand experience and is at the core to the strategic audience relationship.

“As a mass market broadcaster it’s individual personalisation on a mass scale” – Faz Aftab

Enhancing the user experience

ITV and Channel 4 are championing content to their viewers through personalisation and scheduling.

Channel 4’s All 4 Head of Product Sarah Milton said: “We have a remit to innovate, not just on screen but technology development and commercial models.”

The first episode of The Great British Bake Off delivered the biggest audience Channel 4 has seen in over five years. “The biggest young audiences to any UK channel this year,” Milton said.

Broadcasters are faced with the challenge to grow their audience base as well as innovate and introduce new content to their network.

Milton explained Channel 4 has shifted focus from a catch-up service to truly optimising and sharing content with their audiences as a “destination with an incredible array of box sets and a growing collection of exclusive content”.

“We’ve approached this challenge in a number of ways. Our editorial team curate the collection often based around the key shows,” Milton said.

Aftab elaborated, saying the key is the art of scheduling to surface content that viewers have not watched before using data to drive decision making alongside editorial curation.

“The history of broadcasters is the art of scheduling and we need to look at TV as the paradigm we are trying to recreate on VOD catch-up services,” Aftab said.

ITV want to have innovation around how we show content on the platform and look at targeted advertising to continue to drive their subscription services.

Managing the balance between new online platforms and audience engagement is critical.

“As a publisher, not a producer, we are natural curators,” Milton continued, “we’ve worked really hard to personalise our proposition”.

ITV and Channel 4 both used algorithms to drive content curation.

“To retain our editorial voice and continue to curate our content whilst also making use of the immense data and insight, to be smart and targeted about what we promote,”  is the driving strategy behind Channel 4’s OTT on-demand video business model, Milton said.

Channel 4 segments its user base, using tools to be more sophisticated and classify customers into nine different categories developed on their viewing taste.

“A big part of our proposition is live-linear, high quality premium shows on any device” - Sarah Milton 

Aftab added: “The ultimate combination is human and machine, with a person to add a narrative to give context to the data”.

Aftab explained ITV’s aim is to remain as true to linear TV as possible, knowing that programming works for the mass market because of the nightly audience figures. Linking the scheduling to the on-demand service is the stragetic proposition.

She said: “We’ve tried to stay closer to live TV model and not go to a SVOD paradigm which sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. We want to take TV and make it available on the consumers’ terms.”