What role do brands play in an IPTV world?

Unlike its predecessor, Project Kangaroo which was blocked last year, Project Canvas will not be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading. As the future path for Canvas becomes clearer Sharon Wheeler, CEO, Turquoise Brand Consultants, asks ’who owns the audience relationship in the Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) world?’

Sharon Wheeler
Sharon Wheeler

They say that IPTV, with its claims to offer increased personalised services, will apparently surpass the conventional TV experience. Audiences will be engaged by a wide range of service benefits to include integrated telecoms facilities in the future. Sounds good. A bit techy but good.

As IPTV services launch, communication companies around the world find themselves at an interesting cross-roads. Once monolithic in their branding structures, the introduction of IPTV means that these companies will open the door to a wide range of new brands in the form of content. This will require them to transition from communication to multimedia – and fast.

This new IPTV mediaverse presents many branding challenges to audiences who have more than seven levels of brands to cope with; the platform brand, broadcast brands, channel brands, programme brands, VOD brands, studio brands and a host of derivative broadcast web brands. So who owns the relationship with the audience?
IPTV is a product that technically is a natural extension of a communication product line up; fixed line, broadband, mobile and now television from your broadband.

On the face of it, the easiest message for the ’communication’ brand to drive home is convenience. All your products bundled together, nice and neat. No need for sub-brands or extensions, just ’another great service brought to you by…’
A lot of companies bundle offers successfully so why shouldn’t this be a way forward for IPTV products?
Because bundling is a functional task and TV isn’t a functional product. It’s not that we shouldn’t do it, we just need to think of more motivating engagement. Audiences relate to entertainment brands in a far more emotional way. The relationship with content is direct and the platform acts as a facilitator.

Sky has successfully proliferated its brand communications. It’s easier to convince audiences that they can credibly deliver this from a strong promise of ’believe in better’, underpinned by a great TV experience.

BT, on the other hand, had more of a struggle on its hands pushing a bundled offer that included IPTV. Trying to convince audiences that BT would bring you a great TV experience simply wasn’t believable. That’s because BT isn’t synonymous with entertainment; sports and movies. Without this no one really cares about the additional service benefits of IPTV. Shifting from entertainment to communication is a lot easier than shifting from communications to entertainment.

The decision to take an IPTV product is not spontaneous; it’s a complicated process that requires a lot of different brands to play different roles at different times. At the outset, a platform decision will be made on an individual customer’s needs but what does the IPTV brand need to communicate to facilitate this decision:

– As a hardware provider the IPTV brand needs to say something about a technical advantage – Why is the product superior? What do I get? What does it cost?
– As the new provider of content, the brand has to convince customers that it will attract and deliver great content brands; channels and VOD.
– As an aggregator it needs to categorise content to make it relevant. ’10,000 movies’ won’t cut it. Too much content is a turn-off.
– If the IPTV brand has ambitions to become a broadcaster it needs to think about how these channels are branded and whether there should be a relationship at a channel level
– And finally, as a retailer of VOD it needs to establish choice and immediacy.

Once this is sorted out, the IPTV brand needs to think about how it is going to exploit all revenue models by engaging audience segments in a phased messaging programme. This programme requires careful selection and use of broadcast and content brands whilst always attributing credit to the IPTV brand.

Elsewhere in our IPTV mediaverse, broadcast brands are concerned about being squeezed out. Heavily branded EPG’s and a lack of promotional opportunity in the VOD areas means that a lot of broadcasters (who don’t own platforms) are wondering about the future of their brand. If the viewer watches programmes and the programmes can be recorded or easily searched for then what is the role of the broadcaster in the IPTV world and how can they safeguard their brands?

There is of course a much needed role for broadcast brands; they signal a content proposition and act as navigator but they do need to rethink how they market themselves in this environment as this is no longer a tidy linear set up. In the digital world, the viewer is exercising increasing control over how, where and when they watch.

So in answer to the question of who owns the relationship? If positioned correctly, with access to the best content and if the product technically fulfils its role, then without a doubt it will be the IPTV brand. That’s because content is pretty much ubiquitous, IPTV and content brands, at all levels, need to co-exist for the time being. IPTV won’t remain a vehicle for delivery, it will continue to improve. The additional service benefits that grow and multiply will add traction to audiences and heavy handed branding will ensure that the audience always knows who their relationship is with.