IP&TV News’ Joanna Jones talks to UKTV’s Dan Fahy…
Joanna Jones: What do you think is unique about the vision behind UKTV?
Dan Fahy: What’s unique about UKTV is that we’re an independent broadcaster that is using imagination and pragmatism to forge substantial audience scale in this market – now 9% of the commercial TV market, with our rate of growth three times that of our nearest competitor in the last 12 months – without any of the benefits of being a Public Service Broadcaster. In fact, we have sustained a three-year period of uninterrupted viewership growth and our free-to-air channel Dave is the number one non-PSB channel in the country.
With regard to this, what challenges does the current TV environment present?
The accelerating fragmentation of viewing patterns and proliferation of choice is a challenge for UKTV, and all broadcaster and media owners in the business. UKTV’s challenge is to keep getting our product to all the new places and devices that our viewers are choosing to watch their TV. UKTV is meeting this challenge head-on, and this is borne out in the number of on-demand services we are operating now – in 2010, we had no on-demand services, and by the end of 2014 we will be operating 12 separate services.
What is the key to successfully maintaining free and pay-TV brands? What distinct approaches do they respectively demand?
Generally speaking, we find audiences that pay for their TV are very discerning and interested in TV – and they’re especially interested in how advances in technology can make TV better for them. Pay-TV homes took very keenly to PVRs and then to HD, and are now taking very keenly to ‘TV Anywhere’-type services and are discovering the benefits of connecting their STBs and TVs. For UKTV, we know that the key to successfully maintaining our Pay brands is to make sure our Pay brands keep evolving with changing technologies and viewing behaviours and preferences. And, of course, the fundamental principle of maintaining a pay-TV brand is that the programming has to be worth paying for.
Looking specifically at pay-TV, what do you think the main challenges it will have to overcome in the coming years – and how do you expect it to do so?
UKTV has six pay-TV channels, and the biggest challenge we will face will be to keep bringing great programming to Pay audiences that are increasingly benefitting from more choice of higher quality television programming. UKTV is responding to this – our programming budget for this year stands at £125m, up from less than £100m just a few years ago.
How is UKTV showing innovation in the area of OTT?
UKTV has not only launched a raft of OTT services in the last 18 months – on YouView, iOS, PC and also with major Pay platforms BskyB and Virgin Media – but UKTV has refreshed its brand architecture in order to launch a digital-only brand, UKTV Play. The thinking that led us to this innovation was the realisation that, in an increasingly fragmenting, over-supplied TV market, our viewers needed an easier way to get to our programming and channel brands – and we also realised that connectivity and on-demand viewing was creating new opportunities to bring our programmes, from across channels, together in new ways that would benefit our viewers. So now, we have new features called ‘Collections’ and Staff Picks’ on our OTT services that bring programmes together around editorial themes that run across our channels, rather than just within them.
Dan will discussing these issues and more at the Digital TV World Summit in December. Click here for booking and more info.