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Lessons from the first wave of TV interactivity - pt 3
"Sub EPGs, Interactive Advertising and Interactive Services"
In the first of this three part blog we explored the two significant differences between the current era of TV interactivity and the first red button wave of innovation in the Noughties. These are the availability of second screen apps, and the web connectivity now built into most set-top-boxes and screens.
In part two, having looked back 10 years at the red button innovation and broken down the concepts into six broad categories, we explored Text Menus, Enhanced Programming and Video Dashboards.
In this, the third and final part of the blog we conclude by exploring the remaining three categories - Sub EPGs, Interactive Advertising and Interactive Services.
This format was promoted by broadcast networks who wanted the ability to manage their viewers, moving them between different broadcast channels that weren’t close to each other on the main platform electronic programme guide (EPG). Having a pop-up menu behind the red button allowed broadcasters to flag up what was on ‘now and next’ on all the channels under their brand. These originally struggled because the platform operators were uncomfortable ceding control of viewer choice to individual broadcasters.
However, in the new connected broadcasting world the Sub EPG has become a standard mechanism with at least two potential uses. Firstly, main broadcast channels are able to use them to direct viewers to complementary linear IP channels – as BoxTV do with their music channels via the red button. This allows a broadcaster to complement DTT distribution with sub channels either delivered by IP or other DTT streams. The BBC Connected Red Button app on YouView provides a mix of on-demand content, promo videos and allows viewers to retune to other BBC channels through the app. Similarly, Arqiva Connected Solution’s ‘Channel Hopper’ enables viewers to hop between channels in the same portfolio on Freeview HD without going into the manufacturer’s EPG.
Sub EPGs are also being used to allow multiple linear IP channels to cluster under a single LCN on the EPG. The most prominent example of this would be the CCTV suite of channels on offer via a Sub EPG listed at channel 226 , where viewers have a single destination LCN to find similar channels from a broadcaster.
Advertisers are generally inquisitive and keen to try new advertising innovations, so there were a large number of trials and case studies created around the first wave of interactive advertising. Advertisers used TV interactivity to drive sampling, encourage deeper brand engagement; and even to directly sell products and services. However, the interactive advertising landscape stumbled for want of functionality. Advertisers were very conscious of interrupting a viewer’s programme and were keen to deliver quick entertainment or information outcomes.
Advertising was the content area that suffered most from the difficulties with data entry, particularly in trying to generate contacts from the adverts. It also struggled with the poor interfaces available, with the slow boot up of the interactive elements meaning that the proposed interaction often extended beyond the ad break. In this newly emerging era, being able to co-ordinate interactivity with second screens should solve all data requirements and free up the main screens to deliver great video.
The lack of flexible video provision was a killer issue for advertisers in the first wave of interactivity. As well as wanting to offer quick, on-demand access to longer versions of the broadcast ads, they wanted to be able to bookmark video for later consumption, drop video onto PVRs, or have quick links to other forms of interaction. The new flexibility around video heralds an exciting new era of advertising innovation on TV with new formats and functionality becoming possible.
Outside of broadcast channels and programmes, there was a belief that the TV could be the screen of choice for a range of interactive services. Some of them – e.g. games – built on an audience that wanted simple game interactivity but didn’t necessarily have a console. However, for other kinds of service (eg email and home shopping) the set-top-box software could never compete with the quickly evolving PC landscape. Most TV based interactive services died out before even the advent of tablets and mobiles as service platforms.
The arrival of app stores on Smart TVs has kicked off a new interactive services landscape with mixed success so far. However, these early experiments are only the beginning. In the long term, the arrival of connectivity in set-top-boxes can start a new wave of interactive innovation around services. As with programming, the most interesting experimentation will be in establishing what can most successfully be delivered through the main TV and which elements can move to the second screen.
We know from the first wave of work that the main screen is always going to be about delivering video, but we are now free to consider short and long-form on-demand video built into a main channel stream, or to offer links to other linear streams in various forms and formats. In many ways, the only constraint now is our imagination and the industry needs channels, programme makers and advertising agencies to grasp the new possibilities.
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