Hannah Mitchell speaks to Simon Brown, Executive Director of Strategy and Research, UKTV
Hannah Mitchell: We’re nearing another OTTtv World Summit. How would you encapsulate the main changes that have taken place over the last twelve months, both for the industry as a whole and for UKTV?
Simon Brown: From a viewing perspective the last twelve months have seen a steady continuation of established trends – notably the shift in viewing of younger audiences away from linear viewing. BARB figures show that in the last year alone total 16-24 viewing to live TV fell by 15%, 16-34 by 11% and all adults by 3%.
From a business perspective we’ve seen the traditional players asserting themselves strongly in the on demand space; the broadcasters now have very capable, content rich services and the platform owners have built strong aggregation services to compete with the international OTT services. With the battle lines now drawn, we’re entering the long game to build subscriber numbers and revenues in this complementary VOD space via our new on demand service UKTV Play.
UKTV is an undoubted success story. What do you think has been the key differentiator behind its success?
UKTV’s success essentially comes down to just two key elements. First and foremost is the access to amazing content. We transmit an incredible 87,000 hours of television each year and it’s our access to the best BBC content, complemented with hit US acquisitions and original home grown commissions that drive our viewing. The second element has to be our brands. With such a large library of content UKTV has become expert in packaging programmes and creating strong channel brands such as Dave, Gold and Alibi. These brands are clearly understood by consumers and highly valued by platforms such as Sky and Virgin.
And can you describe your strategy for keeping abreast with a changing consumer?
We have a very strong research & insight department whose goal is to scrutinise and interpret viewing information. This team works with our editorial team to ensure we’re offering the best content blend possible – the same principles as we’ve used to schedule our linear channels over the last two decades.
Our strategy department takes a longer-term view, analysing technology forecasts, competitor activity and commercial models. We then work with the commercial and development teams to set the product roadmap for the next couple of years.
How important is securing multi-platform content rights to this effort? How difficult is this?
Multiplatform rights have increased in importance and are now an integral part of content acquisitions. Here at UKTV we’re also increasing investment into homegrown commissions where we can have complete control of rights and offer exclusivity behind linear and non-linear transmissions
How is the changing media landscape changing your relationships with the studios?
UKTV has a very good relationship with the studios and we are now a serious player securing content from the May screenings. Our Network provides a great home for a number of US hit shows. That said, the ways in which our audiences are enjoying programmes is changing and audience demands and expectations are increasing so that they can consume their favourite programmes anytime anywhere. To make sure that we retain and build our audiences, we need to secure the appropriate utility to service our needs and we are working with studios to achieve this aim.
What motivates UKTV to attend the OTTtv World Summit?
I think it’s vitally important that long established broadcasters attend this conference, as we’re very much a part of the non-linear transition that’s taking place. The TV industry has seen many changes over the years such as the transition from analogue to digital and we realise that change brings with it many new opportunities – UKTV in particular having benefitted along the way. I’m keen that UKTV is actively contributing to the growth of non-linear TV as it’s clearly an area that our viewers value highly.