UKTV Play will soft-launch on iOS this summer, before rolling out to desktop and YouView by the end of the year. The service – which acts in addition to the UKTV VOD players on BT, Sky and TalkTalk’s TV services – will allow viewers to create their own personalised channel schedule from a range of advance previews of shows as well as a back catalogue of popular content such as Storage Hunters UK, Crackanory and Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish.
Functionality will include editorial content from UKTV’s schedulers, predictive search and swipe channel selection.
Darren Childs, UKTV CEO, told Marketing Week: “We wanted to do something distinctive that takes learnings from VOD – which is still relatively new to the industry – and make it more user friendly and less scary.
“There’s already so much choice, which can act as a big turn-off, these big archives of content. So we developed a service that brings some of the benefits of scheduling and curating back into it. It adds a layer of usability.”
The launch, which will be supported with an above the line marketing campaign in the beginning of the fourth quarter, marks the “reintroduction of the UKTV brand back to the market” and also the rebirth of the original “Play” brand, which launched as a channel in 1998 but closed in 2002. The broadcaster slowly began bringing the UKTV brand back on air last year after a five-year absence from screens, but the UKTV Play launch will act as a “destination point”, Childs says.
He adds: “We represent a broad range of content and brands, so it’s important to have one destination to draw people into – convert Dave fans to watching a David Attenborough documentary on Eden, or an Eden viewer to watching a cutting edge drama on Watch.
“UKTV acts as a quality kitemark across all 11 of our brands, it stands for great quality content and entertainment – which was missing. We didn’t want to start going backwards and start rebranding our channels, but UKTV Play gives us an opportunity to put that brand back into consumers’ minds.”
Childs believes the soft reintroduction of the brand has already shown signs of a pay off. The UKTV portfolio marked a 22 per cent increase in adult viewers in April, its greatest ever monthly year on year growth and increasing its market share by almost 2 percentage points at a time when the rest of the market declined 3 per cent.
Channel 4 Sales will handle advertising opportunities for UKTV Play, as it does for all of UKTV’s linear portfolio. Launch advertisers have yet to be finalised, but advertising opportunities will include pre-roll, mid-roll and the ability to sponsor sections of the player.