What does the next generation of TV marketing present?

When I was younger, our family used to gather in front of the TV on a Saturday night and my father used the TV guide to decide what the family should watch. Now with a family of my own, it is a whole different story.

While my wife and I might be sitting together in the living room watching Saturday night television, my daughter is in her room watching soap operas that she has recorded during the week. My son, again in his own bedroom, gets his daily dosis of Cartoon Network before bedtime.

This got me thinking that the availability of content on cable, satellite and digital TV, as well as through PCs, IPTV and mobile devices is revolutionising viewing patterns around the globe.

Competition between broadcasters has intensified, the proliferation of channels, devices and viewing platforms has brought seemingly unlimited choice in what we watch, whether at home or on the go. This spoil of riches is creating a new breed of consumer, with the power to choose where, when and how to obtain and consume content.

It’s the age of consumer-driven scheduling, where, in effect, power is now in the hands of the viewer who has greater choice than ever before. At the same time, there is greater inter-connection between media, and the internet is shaping new viewing patterns through blogs and social media which have an increasingly influential role to play in driving TV consumption.

This has also created new challenges for operators who must reach this non-linear, diverse and content-savvy audience with the right marketing messages. The audience is now highly selective, largely fragmented and more demanding, wanting access to the latest content immediately and so operators must phantom up clever ways to communicate with this very diverse audience – such as teenage girls watching soap operas or old married couples on a romantic night-in.

For the marketer, this age of on-demand viewing requires a new way of communicating with their audience and addressing the challenge of offering relevant and real-time, contextual offers. Customers today prefer to have easy access to content, and so by providing the right content and eliminating the discovery process, operators have to ensure that they refine the discovery process, to deliver the right messages to the right customers, and importantly, at the right time.

Yet whilst there are new challenges to contend with, the era of highly interactive channels brings with it more opportunities to help consumers to steer their way through the new world. High churn rates in the TV market, as well as the soaring costs of acquiring new customers are forcing operators to improve their retention practices, detect churn early on, and maximise revenue from existing customers.

The changing face of TV consumption

An Ofcom report from July 2010 showed that take-up of digital television in UK households stood at 92.0% and that almost 9.3 million or 36% of homes receive pay satellite TV services. The way we watch TV is also shifting, and has become a more interactive, cross-device experience.

According to a recent Yahoo! survey, 8 out of 10 mobile media users simultaneously interact with their TVs or PCs. The study showed that almost a quarter of respondents (22%) regularly use their mobiles, TVs and PCs to access content simultaneously.

There is little doubt that online TV continues to revolutionise TV consumption. A recent survey from Ofcom, also revealed that almost one in three of all UK households with internet access watch online catch-up TV – almost eight per cent more than in the same period last year.

How to build customer loyalty

In this increasingly fragmented landscape, the challenge for marketers is how to create interaction that meets individuals’ viewing patterns. The shift of consumption due to technology is not a threat, but can actually help marketers better communicate with customers at a more personal level while, at the same, time delivering a better viewing experience and strengthening customer loyalty. With the costs of acquiring customers so high, detecting churn early on and taking steps to reduce it are vital.

TV operators need to shift from traditional mass marketing to more personalised promotions and offerings. It is important for operators to drive customers to new content with contextual marketing by delivering content personalised to customer’s viewing behaviour. The personalised approach to communicating with users has been proven to deliver the most effective results and requires technology solutions which are designed to deliver a one-to-one marketing experience.

Marketers now need to take advantage of the opportunities that the relationship between web and TV viewing opens up. The web creates a two-way dialogue which marketers can use to their advantage to offer tools through which viewers can create personalised TV portals, which provide individual recommendations, promotional offers, premium channel suggestions, and personal messages.

Operators can target customers with personalised and contextual messages and offers that suit their behaviour and lifestyle at the perfect moment – right when they are browsing the Video On Demand (VOD) or Pay Per View (PPV) portal. Customers are presented with banners, icons and adverts about special offers that are relevant for them on their screens and can take advantage of the offer on the spot simply by pressing “OK.”

These tools can also assist with increasing levels of consumption: for example, viewers of VOD can be automatically detected and sent a specific movie offer based on their previous usage and preferences. Marketers can present in real time – on the TV and web screens, as well as other channels – offers and promotions, which are tailored to customer’s real-time context and usage pattern.

Offers can be focused on a single line of business e.g. increase VOD or premium channels, or cross lines of service. They can also communicate with customers through multiple channels (through interactive programme guides, VOD portal, self service application, IVR (interactive voice response) – adapted to each subscriber’s preference or the type of offer.

Conclusion

Today’s consumers have moved into the driver’s seat and are expecting personalised content that matches their individual taste and viewing patterns. At the same time, TV operators are expected to meet customer expectations with offerings that are dynamically tailored to the preference of each individual viewer, while simultaneously building customer loyalty and a differentiated service offering. So this leaves me to wonder – what does the next generation of TV marketing present?

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Yuval Scachar is VP Television Business Unit at mobile marketing company Pontis. Yuval has more than 20 hi-tech industry years experience in mobile, telecom, TV, broadband, armament industry, with proven management, marketing, business development, sales, operations and R&D experience. A record of success in creating new businesses and products, penetrating markets, channels & partners, and achieving complex and aggressive mega-sales and must-win targets.