Only broadcasters with the best content will retain audiences, says RTS webinar panel

Only broadcasters with the best content will retain audiences, says RTS webinar panel

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Friday, 10th July 2020

As television audiences fragment, only broadcasters with the best content and strongest brands will prosper. 

This was the message that emerged from an RTS webinar in early July.

“It’s a crowded marketplace and highly competitive, and you’ve got to make stuff that people want to watch. I honestly believe that, if you do that, you cut through,” said Zaid Al-Qassab, Channel 4’s chief marketing officer.

“In a world of massive choice, of different platforms and different content, you need brands more than ever,” he said. “That’s how you know what to trust and what to watch.

“It’s all very well with an exciting show that’s already built credibility and you’ve heard of, but with the plethora of new shows out there, you don’t watch those unless they’re coming from a trusted brand.”

Selma Turajlic, co-founder and COO of digital broadcaster and producer Little Dot Studios, however, stressed the importance of content over brand.

“This idea that we are creating brands and destinations just doesn’t cut it anymore. What drives engagement and audience attachment is content,” she said.

“The fundamentals of how we make and broadcast television are being challenged because of the fragmentation of the audience.”

For traditional broadcasters, she said, the challenge was to keep their “core linear TV audiences, but also to start to talk to those that are not sitting in front of a TV screen”.

For the industry as a whole, including newer digital outfits such as Little Dot, Turajlic added: “We’re all trying to figure out how we get heard, make meaningful connections and make audiences our audiences.”

“I wholly believe in the importance and value of brands,” said Rob Campbell, head of strategy EMEA at advertising and marketing agency R/GA. If he didn’t as an ad man, he conceded, “I would be fired immediately”.

Netflix – with its success and supreme brand recognition – was a recurring subject during the RTS lunchtime event. “Netflix – what a nightmare, a global platform, so much money – they have an absolute freedom to release stuff in the way they want,” said Turajlic.

Campbell said: “I find it fascinating that everyone looks at Neflix; and [wants] to be more like Netflix, and that’s literally playing into Netflix’s hands because no one is going to be better than Netflix… What everyone should be doing is embracing who they really are and what they really stand for.”

Warming to the subject, he added: “When [Netflix] get something right, you go, ‘Oh my god that’s fantastic.’ But there’s a shit load of content there that is just horrific. I could say that about every network in some respects.”

The first of two snap polls of the webinar audience asked: “Will channel brands matter in five years?” Almost no one thought brands would disappear, but almost 50% thought that broadcasters’ catch-up brands would be more important than their linear TV services.

“People are going to decide how to watch [your content] – you don’t get that choice. But you do get a choice in terms of what you’re making,” said Campbell.

A second poll asked which broadcaster was doing the best and worst with their brands. Disney and the BBC were thought to be doing best; Apple TV, worst.

The panellists were largely positive about the future for broadcasters. They’re not stupid,” said Rob Campbell. “[Although] the landscape will change, it doesn’t mean they will disappear. They can play a really valuable role in it.”

“It’s not scary at all [for Channel 4],” said Zaid Al-Qassab. Will it look different? Of course it will look different. There’ll be some players you haven’t even heard about who do it brilliantly; there’ll be some old guard who don’t learn and change fast enough who go by the wayside. But we are very well positioned as a brand … and, as Rob kindly said, ‘We’re not stupid.’”

The RTS webinar, ‘TV brand cut-through re-envisioned: How do you find an audience in an increasingly cluttered video landscape?’, was held on 9 July and chaired by  Boyd Hilton, entertainment director of Heat magazine. The producers were David Amodio, Kate Bulkley and Liz Reynolds.

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As television audiences fragment, only broadcasters with the best content and strongest brands will prosper.