Things are starting to get interesting in the Australian TV landscape. We’re seeing a time where networks are trialling a number of different cross-screen broadcast strategies to try and keep their audiences, mirror modern audience behaviour, and avoid piracy.
What the ABC have done with Chris Lilley’s Jonah (offering the full season upfront online prior to broadcast) is putting the consumer at the heart of a program’s distribution strategy. It appeals to a modern audience with a binge watching culture; people want to sit down and watch a season from start to finish in one sitting. SBS offer the same for a number of their SBS 2 programs (The World of Jenks, Bullet in the Face, etc) they will air the first episode on TV then have the whole season available to watch immediately online, in what they call back to back programs.
What Ten have done with a number of their programs (Homeland, Under the Dome, 24) was react to declining viewers in recent seasons – fast tracking international content to bring any straying viewers back to their great content.
Ten’s recent tactic with Offspring, one of their extremely popular broadcast programs, was really interesting. Here, they offered the first episode of the fifth season online prior to broadcast for 48 hours, or to 20,000 viewers (whichever came first). This was a proactive move to give a highly engaged audience what they have eagerly awaited since the end of the last season. This is a great way to build social advocates and use an already loyal audience to increase the anticipation, and hopefully ratings, for the season opener.
We are likely to see a lot more of this happening from the likes of Ten, SBS and ABC who are leading the market in terms of online broadcasting alongside or before TV. Seven and Nine are yet to fully implement this kind of strategy, they seem more focused on using online for extended program content or just catch up. They have dabbled in the space, with Seven having an extensive back catalogue including Saturday Night Live and original Yahoo!7 content (The Flip Side, Tiny Commando etc) and Nine releasing four episodes of Love Child online prior to broadcast.
Maybe when Netflix is finally available in Australia this might force more change in the TV market, a number of Australians are already accessing it illegally, but 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, with networks still picking and choosing which shows to implement these strategies on.
Trying out these kinds of strategies isn’t just network specific, but also genre specific. Broadcasting online first/offering seasons upfront works for certain types of programs like drama or comedy series, however it’s hard to imagine reality TV will be offering a season upfront, with the whole formula based on cliff hangers and live decisions and results.
We’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. Keep your eye on Ten, SBS and the ABC as it looks like they will continue to lead this space and test different cross platform broadcast options.