Q&A: Ben Hine, director of operations, technology and innovation, UKTV.
UKTV is making its first foray into the video-on-demand (VOD) space, with the launch of multiple players for three of its biggest ad-funded channels: Dave, Yesterday and Really.
The players will soft-launch next month on the three respective channel sites, making shows including the latest series of Dave’s Red Dwarf X (pictured) available on catch-up TV.
It will then collate feedback from viewers regarding the beta players, with the view to honing the final version due to roll out later this year. UKTV’s director of operations, technology and innovation Ben Hine (pictured) spoke to new media age about why the timing is right for the launch, and the importance of experimentation when it comes to multiplatform programming.
How big a step is this for UKTV in the wider digital strategy?
It’s a huge step for us, and the first of many more to come. We see VOD as a really exciting way of meeting our fans’ needs to watch our programmes, and of course there are the new revenue streams that come with it. UKTV has very much been a linear business traditionally, we haven’t really wanted to be, but there were areas we couldn’t really exploit before. That’s no longer the case.
Why have you waited until now to launch it?
We have been investing really heavily in content with the result that our linear viewing has gone stratospheric recently, and much of that is due to the programmes. Dynamo is doing really well for us, as well as Dara O’Briain’s School of Hard Sums. Then we have the new Red Dwarf series, a show which has always been a huge hit.
What opportunities do you see in cultivating multiplatform programming going forward?
We want to do more in this area, and we will consider apps, but we will do so on a case-by-case basis, and it will centre very much on the right kind of content. When you think about multiscreen it’s important to remember that people dual screen with programme brands, not channels.
Then there are distinct types - there’s the marketing type formats that appear around the programme on either side, and then there are the playalong games. You can mix the two together, but the apps that seems to work best are the ones which are clear about which they are.
Some content isn’t so good for playalong formats. There are some genres where there are more narrative points at which people can go to the second screen, which works well, so in shows like X Factor there are points where people are encouraged to tweet and rate things for example. But with something like a period drama, there may be more demand to interact after the programme has aired. The challenge for broadcasters will be determining which ones work well with which content and which fan bases. We are going to experiment a lot in this space as no one yet really has the answer.
What connected devices interest you most to extend the VOD service?
We are actively considering lots of connected devices, and we are particulalry interested in mobile, so smartphone and tablet devices, and games consoles. They feel like lucrative hunting ground. The numbers of what other [broadcasters] are getting on games consoles are really good, so that seems a great place to start, but we are still thinking about which ones to extend to. But we are not going to be like the BBC iPlayer and be everywhere, we will look at each one and decide if it’s right for us.
How big a part will social media integration play in the VOD service and the overall strategy?
The social elements will be in integrated to a later version of the VOD service. We think social is really important but like most people we are still trying to work out what the real value of it is. We know there is value there though and social will become a much bigger part of our website and the VOD proposition.