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TV4 outlines its digital-first strategy to reach and monetize younger audiences

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Carola Lundell, Head of Business Development at TV4 Group, speaking at the Connected TV World Summit

TV4 Group, Sweden’s largest commercial television company, has been outlining its initiatives to transform itself into a more youth-focused content provider and embrace the ‘digital-first’ mindset of young consumers who may watch traditional TV but spend increasing amounts of their time online. The company has had a notable success with an online exclusive long-form TV series about young parents that increased reach into the youth demographic and increased mobile consumption. TV4 Group has also created its own MCN (Multichannel Network), a talent network dedicated to using new talent and creating new formats that appeal to young viewers, which also means more short-form content.

At Connected TV World Summit two weeks ago, Carola Lundell, Head of Business Development at TV4 Group, noted how the media market has fragmented and it has become harder for advertisers to reach young consumers. “Advertisers have come to us and asked for a solution because they do not want to deal with 100 entities [in order to reach them through multiple advertising agreements]. They only want to deal with a few media companies and they want us to be one of them.

“Given our size, we have lots of relationships with the biggest advertisers in Sweden. They wanted us to reach a younger audience and be present on more platforms where young people are. So the challenge for us is to meet the demands and habits of this younger target group. So we are using talent and content that is custom-made for online consumption.”

Lundell said the objective of the digital-first initiative is to introduce more people to TV4 content brands, bring down the average age of viewers and also use new content and distribution platforms (like short-form TV4 MCN content made available on YouTube) to draw those younger viewers into the rest of the TV4 online offering, like TV4 Player. Another objective is to establish new revenue streams, attracting money that does not come to TV4 Group today. Apart from new advertising opportunities, the broadcaster will take a ‘transmedia’ approach to its MCN talent and that will include monetization through merchandising and even live events like concerts.

Secondary objectives include attracting new talent into the TV4 Group universe. As Lundell pointed out: “We come across lots of talent in our linear business, like when we make Swedish Master Chef, and often talent is picked up by others when they leave our ‘house’, so we intend to give them the opportunities to grow with us rather than leave our house.” Lundell is also hoping that the TV4 talent network (or MCN) will help them to uncover or create new formats that may end up on-air (on traditional TV).

TV4 Group is focusing on quality rather than quantity with its MCN. The broadcaster has identified five key verticals to focus on initially, where existing advertising clients are interested and where talent is available: entertainment, gaming, music, food, and lifestyle & beauty. Lundell said they will only work with a small group of ‘talents’ in each vertical but will try to maximize their exposure across different media (referring to the transmedia strategy). Content will be commissioned by the existing TV4 Group commissioning teams.

The key to commercial success will be partnering with advertisers rather than just offering them inventory. Lundell explained: “This will be difficult to monetize if you depend on pre-rolls as a broadcaster on YouTube. It is important to work with concept sales: branded content, native advertising, content marketing. We will develop formats in collaboration with advertisers that are completely sponsor driven.” She noted that advertisers are looking to become more integrated into content, as a general trend, both in the digital and linear domains.

Lundell admitted there were challenges selling MCN content to existing advertisers, including how you measure the advertising success when you are distributing the content to external platforms. “This is the currency aspect – there are several challenges to do with harmonizing it.”

Apart from its new talent network, TV4 Group has been developing shows and formats exclusively for online viewing in its TV4 Play service. One successful example is ‘Young Parents’, which followed the everyday challenges faced by a couple of young parents and went out in 13 episodes of 22 minutes each. “By doing this we have managed to reach a younger audience and increased time spent on the service,” Lundell revealed. “It also increased our mobile consumption, which is important to us because are slightly below average mobile consumption and we want to grow that.” 

Short-form viewing of TV4 Group content has increased dramatically over the last year and Lundell admitted that one of the objectives of the digital-first initiative is to tempt short-form viewers into watching long-form content as well. “Yes, absolutely,” she replied to an audience question at the London conference. “And we can see it working, although not as much as we would like. It is a key goal to transform the short-form views to longer durations.”

The background to the TV4 Group initiative is the changing habits of Swedish youth and the growing reliance on digital media for entertainment (of various kinds) among 15-24 year-olds. “On its own, that would be fine if this young audience just turned to our OTT service instead and watched TV4 online but the problem is that they don’t; they have a different media behaviour compared to adults,” Lundell observed.

“With adults we are one of the top five [digital] touch points alongside Facebook, SVT, Aftonbladet and Google [the age range under consideration is 25-49, and TV4 comes fourth in this list of popular digital destinations, which otherwise are in the order of most popular to less popular]. With young viewers [15-24] it is Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Spotify.”

After these top five digital destinations for young Swedish consumers (which are in order of popularity), the list continues with Google, Aftonbladet, Wikipedia, SVT and TV4. So Sweden’s major commercial broadcaster and the public broadcaster do both make it into the top ten, at least.

TV4 Group has realistic expectations for its new digital initiatives. Lundell acknowledged that some MCN or online-only content will work better than other efforts. Responding to questions, she said, “‘Young Parents’ came out the positive side of break-even. We have examples where there were losses so this is still very much a trial-measure-learn period. It is difficult to monetize a show like ‘Young Parents’ like you can on linear but it has proved a successful format, which is why we will continue with the show this autumn.”

She emphasized that the broadcaster definitely sees a business in new digital formats and distribution and she reiterated the need for a broadcaster to increase digital reach with younger target audiences. 


More on this theme: Engaging And Monetising ‘Digital-First’ Consumers

Videonet is hosting a live webcast on July 9 (1500 UK time) to investigate how media companies can engage and monetise ‘digital-first’ consumers – meaning people who may watch traditional TV but actually prefer to get their entertainment online. These viewers could be any age, as ‘digital-first’ is a mindset rather than a demographic, but you are more likely to find them in the younger age groups (millennials and Generation Z). 

David Amodio, Digital and Creative Leader at Channel 4 is joined by Miles Weaver, Innovation Lead at Piksel, David Mercer, VP, Principal Analyst at Strategy Analytics and Neil Berry, Executive Vice President, Commercial, Piksel, for the one hour discussion. We will be exploring the value of more personalized video services, what it means to get really personal with viewers, and how a better understanding of people, through data, can lead to more engagement with a brand and the chance to better monetise content.

The webcast is free (like all Videonet content). You can read more about it, and register to listen live or on-demand, here.

The discussion will encompass:

  • True personalisation – The impact of a more customised UEX, the importance of knowing who is watching, the information needed to build a complete picture of our daily media lives, and how an understanding of viewing ‘context’ can dramatically improve a media offer.
  • Better monetisation – The business benefits when you can better anticipate the media experiences someone wants next, when you can uncover hidden content gems and get people consuming more across all categories of television.
  • Improved acquisition – The use of improved viewing data to improve content acquisition, the definitions of success for programming and whether improved viewer insights must be limited to the digital domain.
  • Advanced advertising – How a better understanding of people, through data, can improve the valuation of advertising, the new advertising possibilities created by location and context-aware media services, and how the user experience can be improved thanks to targeting.

Learn more about webcast

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