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There's more to OTT life than millennials

Will EnnettWhen attending conferences I am always struck by how many panels and presentations focus on the millennial audience, writes TalkTalk head of pay tv Will Ennett. Surely I am not the only one who is not solely focused on the Generation Y customer base?

There must be other platforms, technology vendors and content owners here present who don’t exclusively focus on 18-to 30-year-olds?

New content, new tech, new ways to market are being proposed in TV to serve this hard to reach millennial audience. Whilst these aren’t our sole focus, we are finding that the traditional content created is far from dead; in fact traditional linear TV is actually growing.

We have had a very successful year with viewing on premium content – defined as pay TV live channels, on demand and recordings, which are up over 70% year on year.

What we are noticing is that undoubtedly there is a move towards on-demand, and in particular in the free-to-air space, but we have seen a resilience in linear which has driven our upwards trajectory.

Pay TV brands continue to resonate – obvious examples being key entertainment channels and also sports content, which remains resolutely live and drives a large part of the audience.

This is primarily events-driven entertainment. It can also been seen with streaming platforms – globally releasing a series at a specific date and time, to drive excitement and interest.

We have found that our linear pay TV channel partners continue to do a great job in marketing and PR to drive customer awareness and support of a particular show. This can even lead to upgrades and purchasing specific pay TV packages on the fly.

We had a first episode run recently which led to a 200% increase in customers purchasing through the set top box – this was an entertainment show but all ‘events’ driven.

Of course, no company in this sector can rest on their laurels and we do see the need for innovation. In fact what we see on the ground is that customers are demanding more change than ever before – however it’s not necessarily all about changing the content and changing the way people consume.

What viewers are looking for is a whole new way of interacting with TV, in line with an evolving world, but still like most of the traditional TV which has entertained them well.

A prime example of how we are trying to innovate with the same content, but present in new ways, comes from our recent launch of a kids’ remote.

When it comes to our kids’ proposition, we looked at a number of different ways to update and refresh our lineup. We could have ingested and acquired a large library of new content, we could have looked for new content being made on platforms like YouTube, or we could have launched a new multimedia platform or app replete with games and music.

However we continued our focus traditional content – it’s what appears popular with our customers – but tried to enhance the existing experience. The content is all from existing channel partners Viacom, Disney and Turner brands.

Where we have looked to innovate is in the packaging of content, by shipping new hardware. The The new UI and remote control is designed for kids to use and helps them easily navigate the content they love.

It was designed after some work identifying the key pain points – for adults and children alike. The remote puts kids in control to browse and select their favourite shows, but critically for parents it’s within a safe zone, ad-free and only featuring kids shows.

This gives parents a few minutes’ peace to do other things, and has lots of other nice features such as bedtime reminders and soon to have a tracker on viewing.

Now that is driving some proper video on demand viewing, and may over time be the counter to my previous point about the endurance of linear on our platfor

We’ve talked about viewing habits and endurance of linear, and also about some innovation through hardware, but another area I wanted to touch upon is the pricing and propositions and how this is changing.

When TalkTalk launched as a service five years ago the service was unique in the market to offer a 30-day subscription for all pay TV packages.

We were successful in enticing many of the traditional pay TV refuseniks over to pay TV to try for the first time. In time others have also introduced 30 day periods and with the launch of the streaming services it has been reinforced, but across pay TV as a whole it is still not common.

"The key insight is that customers were fed up of getting a fantastic introductory offer, but which had a sting in the tail"

The second major innovation in pricing was in fixed price plans. This was launched over one year ago across our entire business. The key insight is that customers were fed up of getting a fantastic introductory offer, but which had a sting in the tail in the form of price rises, during the contract.

What we have done is fixed price plans on bundles, and this extends to content as well. Here is an example from our entertainment boost and broadband deal at the moment; customers get this product at half price, but they also know it won’t rise in price until 2019.
What we are seeing is success in this metrics; customers responding well to that price promise.

Through all of this, what we believe is that much of the customer demand is as it has been 5 years ago, in terms of content and technology, but giving the customers flexibility to choose and opt out of pay TV, or giving the customer that bill certainty over a 12, 18 or 24 month period, is where we can innovate and what customers expect.

So to conclude, we’re know customers are demanding change and competition in how we serve them, they want to see innovations, and some customer segments might be turning away completely. However, in many ways we see that viewers still want access to great, and crucially familiar, content.

Join Will at Sportscast this week, where he will be discussing: How Can Traditional Pay TV Operators and FTA Channels Evolve to Grow in the Converged Landscape?

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