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Ten things advertisers need to know about IPTV

There's a buzz in the air about IPTV, the delivery of television content via high-speed broadband connections, writes Caroline Binfield, director of TV at media agency BLM Media.

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The growth of YouTube and other social networking and user generated content sites means there's a new generation growing up watching video and traditional TV on a PC.

Some media owners are moving faster than others -- Sky Anytime means viewers can buy or rent a limited number of shows from such as 'Lost' and 'Stargate' or Champions League matches and the Ryder Cup. Some programmes are available on a "buy-to-keep" basis, priced at £2.50, other programmes are available on a pay-per-View basis priced at £1.50.

Channel 4 is also forging ahead with a broadband simulcast for the majority of its schedule, while the recent 4oD launch opens up the Channel 4 archive with a full video-on-demand service.

ITV has finally revealed the look of its new service, launching on ITV.com in March, which enables video on demand and simulcasts from your PC.

Meanwhile, non-traditional broadcaster Google has a video site that enables small production companies to house their content and generate an income from downloads or streaming.

Last week, a report from Tiscali found that 63% of UK adults would prefer to watch on-demand programmes via their broadband connection rather than waiting for them on traditional TV.

Clearly consumers are increasingly happy to log on and watch free content or pay a couple of quid to view, but what does this mean to marketers and what are the important points to grasp?

I think there are 10 key things advertisers need to know about IPTV:

1. It's a great opportunity
The broadcasting of audiovisual entertainment via broadband offers better targeting of niche audiences, longer messages and greater control for the brands that can make this work. And using internet technology means that the data to back up the medium will be much more robust.

2. Proven success
IPTV may be the new kid on the block but demand is already strong. When Channel 4 made episodes of 'Lost' and 'Desperate Housewives' available online for 99p the response was high and when the same channel offered 'Big Brother' as a download they got 3m viewers rather than the 500,000 they expected.

3. Many homes are already connected
The number of broadband homes is now over 11m and uptake is expected to continue to rise thanks to recent "free" broadband offers. The issue for many homes is not whether their computer is connected via broadband but whether their TV is capable of receiving this content. At present only 759,000 homes have an IPTV enabled set-top box.

4. It expands TV services for consumers
The fuss over the arrival of Sky+ will be nothing compared to what IPTV can do. In effect IPTV will enable every TV to have both a PVR, catch-up TV service, and video on demand functionality, reducing the power of the traditional TV schedule even further.

5. New gatekeepers
The entry points to this brave new world need not be via the traditional broadcasters. BT for example has launched BT Vision, a set-top box with Freeview capability alongside a PVR/VOD service. Other telecoms providers are also expected to develop a similar service.

6. Better measurement
IPTV means that advertisers can forget about Barb data. Instead of viewing figures based on a 5,100 strong panel, they will know the actual number of homes watching each programme and when they watched it. Advertisers will also be able to target ads by postcode and consumer interest, enabling offers to be updated.

7. Content confusion
Broadcasters and anyone else hoping to offer an IPTV service will have to control the rights to shows they want to make available. Different deals have been done by the BBC and Channel 4, with the former agreeing a seven-day download window with independent producers and the latter a 30-day window. After these windows, however, many independent programme makers will be able to resell their shows to other platforms.

8. Niche targeting
Consumers who venture online can now be targeted via their special interests or their behaviour and IPTV will enable advertisers to hit niche audiences via TV with a more tightly focused message. IPTV also offers great possibilities for expanding the value of sponsorship and ad-funded content.

9. A changing of the guard
A raft of new gatekeepers are about to arrive on the TV scene and their role will be extract the cash that pays for the content and return it, minus a commission of course, to the creator. The consensus is that consumers will probably get their IPTV as part of a bundled service that could include subscription channels, telephony and possibly mobile as well as broadband.

10. How do I find what I want to watch?
If the success or failure of digital TV channels is determined by their place on the Sky EPG then the situation becomes even more important on IPTV where the number of channels is potentially infinite. Navigation and search will need to evolve so to make it easier to find shows and existing gatekeepers such as broadcasters will have an advantage as IPTV destinations.

Caroline Binfield is head of TV at BLM Media.

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