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Eight months after it made ITV Player available on iOS and Android devices, mobile viewing now accounts for one-fifth of all consumption for the catch-up TV service from ITV, the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster. Growth rates for mobile consumption are still very high and Robin Pembrooke, Managing Director Online & On-Demand at ITV, says the explosion in mobile usage is great news for the television brand. For ITV Player as a whole, the company is recording audiences of up to a million for its most popular shows like the soap opera Coronation Street.
Pembrooke was speaking at The OTT Strategy Summit 2012, organised by Irdeto and hosted at IP&TV World Forum (the London conference/exhibition that from next year will be called TV Connect). He said multi-screen, cross-platform distribution is a fundamental part of the five year business transformation at ITV, a process that started two years ago. The first 18 months were spent updating the backend systems to handle multi-screen delivery, after years of under-investment. The broadcaster is now starting to enjoy the fruits of that labour.
ITV Player is now the second most downloaded Apple iPad app of all time in the UK. Taking into account the iOS and Android versions of ITV Player, the app has now been downloaded 4 million times. The broadcaster has also made the service available on the PlayStation 3 games console and via Freesat, the free-to-air satellite service that makes on-demand content available via the Internet on hybrid HD receivers. Pembrooke says the company is working with other platforms. “The biggest of those, coming in the UK in the next few months, is YouView,” he noted.
Pembrooke made it clear that multi-screen viewing is part of a wider strategy to extend the reach of ITV content. He pointed to deals with LOVEFiLM, Netflix and Sky Anytime+ and said: “That is a fundamental part of our paid strategy as well, as we look to generate revenues from paid services so that we are not wholly dependent on what can be a volatile advertising market.” He added that ITV will start trialling different types of paid content distribution to determine the situations where people will pay for ITV content, looking beyond the existing free catch-up services provided through ITV Player.
That is as much as ITV is prepared to say about its plans for paid content. Asked how the company will balance the need to provide reach for advertisers (which is generally served best with free distribution) and the desire to get non-advertising revenues, he said: “Large scale free-to-air audiences are key to us and we want to keep developing that and clearly we are not going to put everything behind a pay wall. We are not going to pre-judge what people will or will not pay for before the trials.”