‘Big mindset change’: ITV looks to ‘fan flames’ with data-led content strategy

‘Big mindset change’: ITV looks to ‘fan flames’ with data-led content strategy
(From left) Radcliffe, Agudo Berbel, Botti and Dixon
Connected TV World Summit 2024

ITV has begun looking at marketing older shows in its vast content archive as part of a “fanning flames” strategy for ITVX — even if the flames originate from the success of rival broadcasters.

At Connected TV World Summit 2024, Rufus Radcliffe, ITV’s managing director, streaming and interactive, revealed one of the ways in which the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster is trying to distinguish “signal” from “noise” when interpreting data.

He said: “For example, there is a drama on BBC called Kin — an Irish drama that launched recently — and we’ve had a very brilliant [also Irish] drama on ITVX called Love/Hate that’s been on for a while.

“As soon as Kin went out on BBC, we see Love/Hate starting to simmer up in terms of the amount of people that were viewing. What we then did was the marketing team — what we call ‘fanning the flames’ — saw a little flame there and then they put some marketing support behind it and suddenly Love/Hate just went straight up the charts.

“And this is probably something that we didn’t have the capability to even look at two or three years ago. But it’s a big mindset change for us, really, and data is unlocking new behaviours and new value for deals and new value for advertisers.”

Notably, both series were originally broadcast on Ireland’s public-service broadcaster RTE. Kin, starring Charlie Cox (known for Marvel Studios’ Daredevil), first aired in Ireland in 2021. It was acquired by the BBC and began showing on BBC One in November 2023.

Love/Hate is even older: it debuted in 2010 on RTE and the show’s production company, Octagon Films, signed an international distribution deal with ITV Global. While it has remained in the archive via BritBox, ITV Hub and now ITVX, it actually aired on UK linear TV first on Channel 5 in 2013.

More than personalisation

Radcliffe also discussed ITV’s recent decision to work with user-experience developer ContentWise, which has been tasked with building a new recommendation engine for the broadcaster VOD platform that will, in the words of panel moderator Colin Dixon, “customise the interface… [that is] more than just simple personalisation”.

“It’s relatively early days, but we’re really excited with where that’s heading,” Radcliffe added.

The ContentWise UX Engine, described by the company as a “machine-learning platform”, was launched on ITVX in early November 2023. Since its implementation, ContentWise has claimed that UX Engine has generated double-digit increases in conversion rates and substantial lift in average watch time compared with control groups on the platform’s previous recommendation system.

Radcliffe continued: “ITV has existed since 1955 with a very, very strong editorial voice as well. So I think it’s the balance of heightened personalisation and editorial, and getting that combination right, because our viewers want to know what our recommendations are, as well as what recommendations should be driven by what their previous viewing history is.

“But, clearly, a more personalised experience moving forward is going to be a real sort of growth lever for everyone in this space.”

Pause-ad roll-out ‘imminent’

Meanwhile, a new “pause ad” format for ITVX should be launched “imminently”, Radcliffe said. Kelly Williams, ITV’s managing director, commercial, revealed the format was being trialled in November last year.

Radcliffe added: “Steve [Forde], our brilliant product director, has built [pause ad] and it’s ready to go. It’s going to be imminent.”

Dixon’s panel also featured Nicole Agudo Berbel, managing director and chief distribution officer for aggregator platform Joyn at Seven.One Entertainment Group, and Oliver Botti, head of ad sales, EMEA, for sports and entertainment tech provider Deltatre.

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