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Think BR: The broadcaster's loyalty conundrum

How can broadcasters maintain loyalty in an increasingly fragmented world, asks Chrissy Jamieson, planning director, Red Bee Media.

Chrissy Jamieson, planning director, Red Bee Media

Chrissy Jamieson, planning director, Red Bee Media

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The recent explosion of content, content distributors and platforms means maintaining loyalty is more difficult than ever for network and channel brands.

These days, flagship programmes and talent brands are often the ones who hold the viewer relationship and loyalty.

So what does this mean for broadcast brands going forward? Can they ultimately make this work in their favour?

In 2010 some of the major US networks launched silo reward schemes for cult programmes: USA started offering Character Rewards for Psych and ABC launched the In Crowd for Pretty Little Liars super fans.

Others followed suit to dangle points-mean-prizes carrots for viewing and sharing online content, programme participation or positive word-of-mouth.

While it’s a great idea to provide fans with interactive rewarding experiences and to broaden the reach of returning series, the credit and loyalty transference back to the network is limited.

The latest big thing in TV loyalty is Viggle, which launched earlier this year with much fanfare. It unites numerous US networks and movie theatre franchises to reward real-world TV and film viewing with real-world stuff (eg, Starbucks coffees) by syncing with the audio on screen.

This is definitely innovative technology, but will this partnership model change viewing behaviour and network-viewer relationships?

Won’t the participating brands suffer from the same problem outlined above? Fans will attribute all credit to Viggle as the brand bringing them this experience, and the network brands will reap less of the affinity benefits they could have if they’d owned this platform themselves.

So is there a better way?


NBC’s Fan-it is a step in the right direction as a proprietary platform that actively incentivises loyalty across all of its programmes. However, I’d suggest the real hero here is HBO Connect.

Not satisfied with simply offering material rewards through GetGlue, HBO’s unique second screen experience also allows fans to join in conversations with like-minded others and helps navigate to more HBO programmes they might enjoy.

Through Connect, HBO has cleverly reclaimed the relationship with the viewer and it’s a win-win for all concerned.

Fans can enjoy much deeper engagement with the shows, gain more access to their stars, and the behind-the-scenes-talent, all courtesy of HBO.  

As a result, HBO deepens its relationship with these fans. This social TV site goes beyond transactional rewards to ensure the programme and talent affinity is anchored back to the network.

So in the future, should all broadcasters be thinking about building loyalty through providing enhanced experiences rather than dangling reward carrots?

Channel 4’s Scrapbook and Food Network’s Pinterest collections provide more examples of creating value-added services to drive loyalty.

Curating content (beyond just their TV shows) in innovative, audience-friendly ways will ultimately lead to more loyal viewing behaviour, in VOD and in real-time.

Stepping further outside of broadcast land, there’s further inspiration for thinking differently.

Let’s consider some of the best practices from innovative technology brands like Apple and Skype, which have incredibly loyal fan-bases.

They constantly have new brands, products and services in beta, inviting their users to contribute to making better brand experiences. They are testament to a sense of shared responsibility and mutual respect fostering ultimate loyalty.

Looking at retail, Asda now gets its customers to test own-brand products (Asda Chosen by You) as one way of building a kind of loyalty to outlast the price wars.

Couldn’t channel brands do something similar? Think e4 inviting viewers to create idents or Fringe getting re-commissioned thanks to its fans, but on a grander scale.

Can we answer the broadcaster’s loyalty conundrum?


Well, we can learn from best practice, but the differences between broadcaster models means there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

In the near future, advances in audio water-marking will make all kinds of new things possible, but the bottom line is we should be thinking about what will make viewers genuinely like us, as well as be loyal to us.

Have you seen any other examples of broadcast brands doing loyalty well?

Chrissy Jamieson, planning director, Red Bee Media


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