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RTS International Conference 2010 highlights

Bewkes says traditional media is in the box seat

Time Warner president and CEO Jeff Bewkes said that technology companies have something to offer the TV industry, but cautioned that content owners and creators should be mindful of not cheaply giving away their product and to remember the function that tech companies perform.

Bewkes said that we are in a golden age for TV programmers and networks and that the success of the sector has attracted non-content producing companies to the sector.

“Have you noticed how we have been collecting company: Apple, Amazon, Google, Sony – the list goes on,” he said. “They offer gifted devices and applications to control and share content and these are great and appropriate things. But let’s be clear what they are not – they are not programmers and not distributors and they do not make programming.”

All3Media takes on Google; makes ‘cowboys’ jibe

Steve Morrsion, chief executive of one of the UK’s largest indie producers and distributors All3Media, rounded on Google at the RTS event.

Speaking on a panel on video-on-demand, alongside Google’s MD, UK and Ireland, Matt Brittin, he said: “Google shouldn’t stand outside the system as a kind of cowboy.” He went on to explain that he thought the Internet giant should share a part of the revenue generated from search and sponsored links with content owners. “It’s wrong for money to leak out of the system that’s not used for content renewal,” he added.

“I don’t like being described as a cowboy,” responded Brittin. He also said the system that Morrsion was decrying was “what happens on the Internet already.” He added: “We have worked with content creators to identify relevant technology and help them monetize content.”

Pay TV a key part of ITV’s ‘transformation plan’

ITV will increase its exposure to the pay TV sector, look at charging for online extras and previews and attempt to drive more revenue from international, recently-installed CEO Adam Crozier told delegates. Crozier admitted that ITV’s earlier foray into pay TV with OnDigital, subsequently renamed ITV Digital, has “left some scars”, but said it will move back into the pay sector as it seeks to diversify its revenue base.

“Do I see pay TV playing an increasing part of ITV’s future? Yes, definitely,” Crozier said. Part of that will be attempting to monetize online content, he said: “We want to put payment mechanisms in place online and to test what people will pay for. It might be back-stories to things or previews.”

Another key initiative will be to increase the amount of content produced in-house, the ITV boss told delegates. Stripping out the broadcaster’s two main soap operas, in-house production accounts for just 17% of the total. He cited Dancing on Ice in 2006 as ITV Studios’ last big hit. “We have to see our position as an integrated producer/broadcaster as a strength,” he said. “We need to really improve the creative output of ITV Studios.”

Hulu reiterates int’l launch plans; ITV reiterates it won’t work with aggregators

US catch-up service Hulu has reiterated plans to launch in international territories. CEO Jason Kilar relayed a video message to delegates in which he said Hulu “should be a global service”. He added: “Where and when are things that we keep close the vest.”

The company, a joint venture between NBC, Fox and ABC, was expected to launch in the UK last year. However, Adam Crozier, the recently-installed CEO of ITV, said that the UK commercial broadcaster will not be teaming with Hulu. When it was put to him that ITV almost became an equity partner in Hulu in return for providing its content, he replied: “We almost became a lot of things.” He added: “I am not interested in working with aggregators. Keeping control of programs and channel brands is absolutely part of our strategy.”

Later in the day Time Warner president and CEO Jeff Bewkes, meanwhile, questioned the Hulu business model. “It’s way for broadcasters to take content and put it online and on-demand. The question is what is the model? Currently it’s the same as for TV, it’s advertising, but generating a fifth of the amount. The question in the long term is, how will that model finance program creation?”

Virgin says most subs use VOD weekly

Virgin Media says that 62% of its subs now use its video-on-demand service at least once a week. Cindy Rose, executive director of Television, Virgin Media gave a run-down of VOD usage at the RTS event. She added that the iPlayer catch-up service, which is available over Virgin’s cable system, has driven usage as had interest in kids content, transactional services and scripted series.

“The VOD service is now the fifth most popular ‘channel’ across our whole service,” Rose said. “Those customers that have PVRs say they cannot live without them and it is the same for those that use the VOD services. Those demographics are very similar.”

Use of VOD services is proportionally much higher among Virgin subs than the wider UK public. Statistics revealed at the conference, based on data from audience ratings company Barb, revealed just 0.2% of UK viewing was to true video-on-demand services. The statistics also revealed that 6% of viewing is timeshifted and 0.8% is to a catch-up service.