December 2011 – We are beginning to wonder whether it is time to have a good look at the role of player brands again. Looking at the evolution in consumer behaviour around VOD consumption, and the new TV systems being built, it feels like we need a new push to re-focus marketing effort onto broadcast brands again.
The current phase of development in on-demand distribution is driving the migration of whole programme viewing from second screens (like the PC) to the first screen (the television). VOD is coming home to TV. This is happening first in pay TV, but free boxes are not far behind.
As it makes this journey, the on-demand model is fragmenting. We used to talk about VOD as if it was a single thing. Now, we can see that movies on demand, catalogue TV and catch-up TV are beginning to behave very differently. In particular catch-up TV is breaking out of the ‘VOD’ bucket and is being very slowly bolted in behind broadcast. Both Virgin Tivo and Youview have broadcast EPGs that you can use to access catch-up VOD by clicking on a programme title. Effectively, you go through broadcast to reach catch-up so it doesn’t make sense to then show a consumer a player brand. This will increasingly be the case for FTA broadcasters content in all the pay platforms, or free set top boxes.
You hear people asking whether you need broadcast brands in the world of on-demand but broadcasters should remind themselves that broadcasting is the core business and that the brand strategy should follow on from that. The industry should seek to protect broadcast channels and most importantly, protect broadcast brands, because they are at the core of the future of broadcast TV.
The player brands can be a massive distraction and with catch-up being integrated into the bigger TV proposition, broadcasters should stop the ‘balkanization’ of their business structure. Catch up should be positioned as a support function for broadcast, not an alternative to broadcast.
Decipher has long been concerned at the balkanisation of the TV industry with VOD teams, staffed by non-broadcast people, using different brands, often in a different building, being given a free rein to decide the future of on-demand distribution. (See ‘Who Gave The It Department A F~*ckng Brand To Play With?) But that approach needs to end in his view, and decisions about how VOD is handled must now go higher up the chain of command within a broadcast channel. Senior broadcast management must take responsibility for the complete channel proposition.
Defining how a 21st century TV channel works, with the content and brand interplay between broadcast, catch-up and catalogue on-demand alongside the battle not to be submerged by the brand aspirations of the platforms, is the great challenge for the next 10 years.