The U.K. has enjoyed plenty of great sport in recent months, from the gripping final days of the Six Nations rugby, to the start of the new Formula One racing season and of course the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, which saw some fantastic results for Team GB. As these events demonstrated, sports programming really needs to be live to achieve greatest impact, with viewers sitting on the edge of their seats, awaiting that crucial decision which could mean win or lose for their team. That said, the need for a 'live' experience certainly does not apply for all types of TV programming.
This same issue was a hotly debated topic at a recent event hosted by Broadcast magazine in the U.K., during which panellists, from a range of major broadcasters and service providers, asked what types of content should be delivered live, and what is best suited for video on-demand (VOD) viewing. There's no easy answer but, as Dan Fahy, head of commercial development at UKTV put it, it's important to examine each programme individually to determine what shows lend themselves to which viewing experiences.
From its own research, UKTV has found that VOD tends to work best for shows with an established fan base, and where the broadcaster is looking to implement a viral marketing strategy ahead of the show's transmission on TV. But UKTV is still putting its best programming on linear TV channels, Dan stressed, with VOD offering a great outlet for experimentation.
But while UKTV's main focus is still on linear programming, the recent news that BBC Three is going online-only is a sign that linear-first is not the universal view. While the driver behind the BBC's decision to take the channel off-air was certainly financial in part, and is set to save the company in excess of £50 million, it demonstrates that VOD can sometimes be the best delivery option (especially when money is concerned).
With a predominantly millennial audience for BBC Three, the BBC has claimed the channel is apt for mobile and online audiences, and thus lends itself to the on-demand viewing model. While some programming, such as sport, is natural fodder for live viewing, content that lacks the same urgency and time constraints can prove ideal for the VOD approach.
Changing consumer behaviour is undoubtedly shaping the way we deliver content today. Disruptors and pure-play OTT providers such as Netflix have capitalised on these trends and are causing broadcasters to carefully reconsider how they deliver programming. But delivering content that's easily accessible, anywhere, and on any device with a rich user experience, is no mean feat in a landscape characterised by increasing fragmentation. Services like Netflix are working to combat this problem – and are achieving great results.
During the Broadcast event, Tom Williams, co-founder and creative director of digital design agency Ostmodern, neatly summed up TV viewing today:
'People pay for convenience and quality, and a service that provides those two things'
As the various industry players increasingly experiment with how they deliver their programming, it is vital that the consumer remains front and centre of their focus. After all, viewers crave simplicity and quality – so much so, that they're prepared, and willing, to pay for it.