Raymond Snoddy on Media: C4 ad trial is bang on target

Raymond Snoddy
Raymond Snoddy

What more could advertisers ask for than a closed IPTV network with discrete addressable viewers?

The combination of two small companies PacketVision and Inuk is not something designed to get the blood racing. What sort of service could they be offering - a new telecommunications link for Eskimos, perhaps?

In fact, their project with Channel 4 deserves a little wider attention in the marketing community. For years people have been talking about fully addressable television so that the right person gets the correct ad, at a relevant time and in the appropriate mood.

The technology is already there. 'It's only a matter of commitment' has been the usual cry, although in reality surprisingly little has happened. People are always announcing they are about to deliver true addressability.

Fully addressable ads actually began transmitting during Hollyoaks on Channel 4 on 4 October, and more than 4000 spots have since been broadcast from 12 participating media agencies.

It may have the whiff of a big experiment, but it's wholly commercial. About 160,000 university students who subscribe to Inuk's Freewire IPTV service over broadband have access to free and pay-TV services both on TVs and laptops. It comes complete with PacketVision's 'managed advertising service' on the Channel 4 output.

For the students, there is the additional benefit of avoiding a licence-fee payment provided they download the programmes to a battery-operated laptop and watch them later.

The project claims to be the world's first large-scale addressable TV advertising project. As the audience is entirely students in halls of residence, advertisers already have their age profile. You can also target ads by gender and students' distance from home. So no more money wasted by playing female hygiene ads to hairy rugby players.

As it's a closed network the normal ad thresholds don't apply either, so condom ads in the afternoon are just fine. And as long as you don't get too carried away you could also be a bit more flexible with the booze ads.

Whether the development is good or bad news financially for broadcasters is less clear, but at least advertisers should only have to pay for what they get.
The proof will come either way when detailed research on student behaviour becomes available.

Inuk has plans to roll out nationwide, and PacketVision is already talking to AT&T in the US and looking to expand into other European countries, where IPTV networks are forging ahead rather faster than in the UK.

Barry Llewellyn, PacketVision's marketing chief, believes that in some countries, at least, IPTV could become the preferred method of distribution.
Following hard on the heels of the BBC launching online streaming of its two main channels to computers and mobiles, there has been a flurry of pre-Christmas online-TV activity.

Sky's launch of Sky Player TV, its first online-only subscription package, is a significant moment in the evolution of how we watch television. Sky says it will enable consumers to access pay-TV online without the need for a subscription to a TV-based service.

Why many people would want to do that, given the advance in the quality and size of TV displays is a conundrum, but clearly part of the market, at least, is heading in that direction and Sky is simply recognising that fact.

Just a little less significant was the announcement from ITV last week that it was rebranding its online catch-up TV service as ITV Player. Except that in the case of ITV's catch-up television deal with BT Vision, it will be branded ITV Net Player and referred to as the ITV Network Player.

It's enough to confuse an Eskimo.

Raymond Snoddy is a media journalist and presenter of the BBC's Newswatch

  • ITV is to rename its online catch-up TV service ITV Player to create a brand that will be instantly recognisable to consumers. The rebrand will be promoted with a high-profile on-air campaign across ITV's channels, which launches on 19 December.
  • The decision follows ITV's first deal, with BT Vision, to make its catch-up programming available online through a third party.
  • According to Ben McOwen Wilson, ITV's director of online, 'The new logo is part of our aim to create a recognisable and consistent brand for video-on-demand content across the web and TV.'
  • The new name and logo come 18 months after ITV spent £20m creating its online broadband TV service, which has been branded as the Catch Up section of the ITV.com website.
  • The average number of plays per month has increased by 3354% since it launched.
  • ITV.com hosts an average of 620 hours of catch-up content and 340 hours of archive material, as well as 50 hours of short clips.


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