What’s 1 thing PSBs could do right now to win back younger viewers?

What’s 1 thing PSBs could do right now to win back younger viewers?

How public-service broadcasters (PSBs) can better appeal to the notoriously hard-to-reach younger demographics has been a hot topic for years, as they move away from linear TV.

Recent investments into online offerings certainly suggests streaming is one route to achieve this goal.

ITV, which released its results last week, said 2023 was the year of “peak investment for streaming”. The broadcaster also sold off its stake in BritBox International this month in order to focus more on ITVX.

Meanwhile, the BBC will be looking at how to grow its global presence now it has full ownership of BritBox International and its commercial arm, BBC Studios, has already said it plans to invest “tens of millions” in new content.

Earlier this year, Channel 4 announced its commitment to become a “digital-first” public-service streamer.

But how exactly can PSBs utilise streaming to reach younger people? And what else can they do – is it about changing formats, or the content they offer, or both? Innovations such as shoppable ads could also be an attractive proposition.

With the continued popularity of adverting-based VOD (AVOD) and the rise of free advertising-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels, PSBs have a challenge on their hands.

Ahead of Connected TV World Summit, The Media Leader asked some of the speakers to share their thoughts.

Andrew Ladbrook, independent consultant

“There needs to be a real focus on giving young people the reins to create the content that enables this audience to feel seen.

“On any given day, at any time slot, a quick look through the EPG or a PSB app will reveal few shows which feature young people or offer topics that they can find engaging. Is it likely that Generation Rent has much interest in watching a couple buy their second home in Spain?

“Where is this generation’s The Word? Goodness Gracious Me? Or The Inbetweeners? It can be no surprise that Gen Z and Alpha are attracted to social media, as this is where they can find a reflection of their lives.

“To be successful, PSBs need to put the youth in charge and adapt to making content the social media way: for these online generations, content must happen now and be offered in volume. If this happens, we may just see what a genuine PSB alternative to MrBeast looks like.”

Kate Dean, vice-president, direct to consumer, Universal Pictures

“I would suggest the PSBs experiment with formats such as user-generated content challenges. Encourage younger viewers to create and share their own content across multiple platforms and media formats to stand the chance of featuring in the final tent-pole show — which could involve collaborations with digital influencers, YouTubers or other social media personalities.

“Hopefully, this would create new storytelling strands, spike creativity and mirror the lives of the viewers PSBs want to attract.

“Partnering with esports organisations on user-generated tournaments and competitions could be especially interesting or incorporating gamification elements into traditional programming to engage viewers and encourage participation.”

Ben Keen, independent analyst

“Honestly, there is no magic-bullet solution to crack the younger demographic pain point that PSBs everywhere face. In my view, the strategy must be two-fold.

“First, go where the audience is by ramping up engagement with those viewers through a strategy of pushing out carefully curated PSB-branded content on their favoured platforms (TikTok, YouTube, Instagram etc).

“Secondly, consolidate today’s fragmented PSB streaming presence in an easy-to-find aggregated proposition that combines on-demand and linear (including FAST) in a single unified destination — Freely on speed, if you will.”

Ruth Cartwright, investment director, Sky Media

“TV content doesn’t have to be on TV — TV’s quality and trusted stamp can be wherever people want to consume. Take Sky Sports — Premier League and Women’s Super League games have never been bigger on live TV, but that content is edited and amplified for different audiences across digital, social and YouTube, so it’s consumed how and when the viewer wants.

“I also really like what Ben Frow from Channel 5 said recently in an interview around younger audiences. First, don’t judge on overnights, as content is now consumed in so many different ways, you need to look at the true consolidated picture.

“Younger viewers to Pluto, for example, are very different to those watching live linear — but it can be the same content, just a different time and place. And it 100% has to be focused on great content, not content specifically for 16-34s — if it’s relevant and entertaining, it will find its way to people up and down the country of all ages.”

Paul Gubbins, vice-president, CTV strategy and marketing, Publica, Integral Ad Science

“PSBs in the UK face significant challenges in attracting and retaining younger viewers, who increasingly favour online platforms and FAST/AVOD streaming services, given their changing media consumption habits.

“A holistic approach is needed to ensure PSBs can appeal to this audience: through expanding content that resonates with their interests and viewing habits, fostering community interaction to inspire conversation around popular shows, emphasising short-form content and thinking about channel strategies to hook audiences and bring them into their own digital streaming experiences.

“It’s also just as important to think about the experience they are providing on their own digital platforms: experimenting with new technologies and formats like shoppable CTV ads, augmented reality and interactive storytelling to create unique experiences, but also ensuring that they’re not driving them away through things like annoying and jarring ad breaks.

“With so much choice now in streaming content, when consumers are seeing the same ad over and over or the volume of the ad break is totally out of sync with the content or, worse, the ad break just buffers, younger viewers will simply just switch over to another service.”

Brigita Brjuhhanov, TV product owner and development team lead, Elisa Eesti

“PSBs need to adopt a tailored approach towards younger viewers, recognising their distinct viewing habits and preferences compared to older generations. Younger audiences are accustomed to consuming content across various devices and prioritise on-demand and personalised experiences.

“To win back their engagement, PSBs should offer flexible viewing options and invest in robust on-demand platforms. Moreover, exploring interactive and immersive content experiences, leveraging technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and gamification, can enhance engagement.

“By embracing these strategies, PSBs can effectively connect with younger audiences and make their content more appealing and relevant, ultimately reclaiming their viewership.”

Tom Morrod, co-founder and research director, Caretta Research

“PSBs can address changing consumer behaviour amongst younger views by making their offering more accessible to different viewing habits. Linear viewing is surprisingly resilient and all broadcasters typically offer both linear OTT [over-the-top] and VOD content via apps and browser, and in general broadcasters will converge on a single brand and platform that is streaming-first, but this will take some time.

“In the short term, younger viewers seem responsive to shorter pieces of content, rapid highlights and topical video easily accessible on social platforms. I don’t think PSBs need to change content style, but extending accessibility to where younger audiences are available is a sensible way of increasing visibility and engagement.”

Annie Shearer, head of video planning, EssenceMediacomX

“I view this as a two-pronged approach to adapt strategies. To step into the younger generation’s world, we need to see greater investment in more diverse, engaging and relevant content.

“By collaborating with influencers to co-produce content and tap into existing fan bases, broadcasters can expand their reach to these young audiences, who are already engaged with these creators. This is something the global players are doing very well.

“Secondly, we also need to see broadcasters embrace a data-driven ‘digital-first’ world, so they’re reaching the right people at the right time and focusing on an audience-centric model rather than platform-specific. By leveraging their digital platforms, broadcasters will have a greater opportunity to engage with younger viewers on their terms.”

Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst, nScreenMedia

“Young people spend under 30% of their viewing time with broadcaster content. Because many of them reject the linear format or TV altogether, simply distributing broadcast content in linear channels through streaming TV platforms will not be enough.

“PSBs need to create content tailored specifically for the young in native formats that match their expectations. User experiences of owned-and-operated apps must reflect how they are used to discovering and consuming content.

“Further, PSBs must distribute their content through the services and platforms young people use. In short, to win more of young people’s time, PSBs must meet them where they are.”

Anette Shaefer, analyst, Big Picture

“Focus on news, investigative journalism, in a world becoming more uncertain because of a lot of fake news in media. Focus on the core public-service mandate: being the reliable source of truth.”

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