Ten’s use of its catch-up service Tenplay as a way to scramble up more viewers has Nicole Turley, chief investment officer at MediaCom putting her hands together for the network.
“Ten has done particular well at this, and in many ways needed to,” she said.
“Ten’s leading the charge in terms of having previews and trying to build momentum around their audiences. It makes sense for them to release their content earlier.”
Catch-up services used to be purely that, a catch-up service, however recently TV networks such as Ten are beginning to offer online only content and VIP showings instead of using the service as a place to re-broadcast programs.
Just last week Ten released the first episode of the fifth season of the widely acclaimed drama Offspring for 48 hours or up to 20,000 views, whichever came first.
The preview garnered 20,000 views in under 24 hours, the “fastest that we’ve ever reached the viewing limit,” according to Ten’s chief digital officer Rebekah Horne.
“Expectations and behaviours around media consumptions, plus the voracious appetite for premium content such as Puberty Blues and Offspring, provides new opportunities to drive engagement, word of mouth and social buzz from fans who have previewed the shows prior to broadcast,” she said.
“This is an invaluable way to drive awareness and interest in the broadcast of these shows.”
While the exclusive content available on Tenplay may have been well received, Steve Allen at Fusion says the network’s ratings weren’t really affected.
“Did not seem to do much for its ratings even though the ‘views’ as publicised, were pretty impressive.
“It is another form of promotion and sampling to build word of mouth and anticipation,” he said, adding that ultimately it’s another form of trying to up the viewership.
Jane Clinch, digital director of Vizeum Sydney agrees with Turley that Ten is one of the networks currently at the head of the pack on this, arguing Seven and Nine generally use the catch-up service for its original purpose.
“Seven and Nine are yet to implement this kind of strategy, they seem more focused on using online for extended program content or just catch up,” she said.
“Networks like Ten, SBS and ABC are focusing on their brands in the over-arching sense, promoting programs across their platforms and really considering today’s audience behaviour.
“So long as Seven and Nine continue to significantly lead the TV market and make larger margins and profits from TV I think they will continue to push broadcast first and foremost, with online platforms being a secondary consideration.”
However according to a Yahoo!7 spokesperson, the catch-up service for Seven (Plus7) is already exuding exclusive content on its site.
The site is benefitting from the company’s global content deals such as the back catalogue of Saturday Night Live and original Yahoo!7 content such as The Flip Side, Sketchy, Losing It with John Stamos, Tiny Commando and First Dates.
These programs helped the catch-up service grab five million full episode streams.
Also in support of the season two premiere of A Place to Call Home, Seven uploaded the entire first season for the audience to binge-watch on.
“This is the first Yahoo!7 has released content in a full season and it was very well received, collectively the first seasons’ episodes achieved 100,000 full episode streams,” the spokesperson said.
Nine has also released four episodes of Love Child prior to its TV broadcast earlier this year, with the network claiming they were the first to utilise this tactic.
Victoria Buchan, director of communications and public relations at Nine said: “We had a massive success with it and it certainly was the first time anyone had done it, and obviously Ten noticed the success and have copied it with Offspring.”
Clinch suggests that when Netflix becomes available in Australia this might force the networks to change up their tactics and even though a lot of Aussies are currently accessing the streaming service illegally, the number is “not enough to persuade the larger networks to take notice”.
“Although the fact that we are already the leading nation in illegal downloading hasn’t seemed to make much of an impact to Seven or Nine,” she said.
Sebastian Rennie, chief investment officer at MEC, believes the uploading of exclusive content can be a tactic to hype up the program on social media and get people talking.
“If you can show someone a new episode or sneak a peek, hopefully they will become rating recruiters as they can comment on social media, so it can be used a tactic to help market show as well as a tactic for content demand,” he said.
The audience profiles and genres of the programs are also crucial elements within TV, with Rennie believing Ten are “playing to people’s wants and needs”.
Clinch from Vizeum agrees: “Broadcasting online first/offering seasons upfront works for certain types of programs like drama or comedy series.
“However I can’t imagine reality TV will be offering a season upfront, with the whole formula based on cliff hangers and live decisions and results.”
Ultimately Clinch believes there are a number of tactics networks are testing the waters on in order to keep their audiences.
“I’d like to see a time where it didn’t matter whether a person watched a program online or on TV, but the reality is TV ratings and revenue are the priority for most networks. Networks that continue to test different cross platform broadcast options will lead this space.”