Guy North, marketing communications director, Freeview
Guy North, marketing communications director, Freeview
A view from Guy North

Think BR: Taking advantage of digital switchover

It is the brands that really understand what viewers want who will be able to make the most of the digital TV switchover, writes Guy North, marketing communications director, Freeview.

Last week, the Crystal Palace transmitter turned off its analogue signal marking a new era for TV across London and the South East.

2012 is set to be a historical year for TV in the UK, with the completion of digital switchover on 24 October following on from some of the biggest TV moments seen in the UK: the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012 and arguably the biggest ever, the Olympics.

Viewers will be considering upgrading their televisions as manufacturers introduce bigger and better models, leading to a significant rise in connected TV. According to GfK, there were 2.6 million connected TV’s in-market by December 2011, 90% of which were Freeview HD.

As a result, recent entrants into the market such as LoveFilm and Netflix will be battling for share of voice with the traditional broadcasters and existing platforms will be challenged by the launch of YouView.

With viewers having access to many new services, the big question is what impact will this have on the key players and how will they respond to this evolving market.

There will be much greater competition between platform providers, with no more analogue converters, meaning that brands will have to compete on level terms.

Brands will need to be crystal clear on what viewers want and how they position themselves to deliver this.

Any brand that is not clear on what it stands for or fails to translate this positioning into compelling and motivating communications is at risk of confusing consumers and suffering as a result. TV platform brands will need to be stronger than ever to flourish.

It is important for brands to recognise that viewer behaviour lags behind technology.

Freeview is in constant discussion with consumers and recent research of 2,000 people (April 2012 Freeview H&P consumer research) suggests that what consumers want most are technologies that enhance current television viewing behaviour and give the viewer a more personalised experience.

When asked to rank eight different TV technologies in order of appeal, 62% put catch up TV (player services) in the top slot, followed by TV anytime (59%) and an enhanced programme guide (51%).

3D and Mobile TV, meanwhile, are considered less appealing but still 'nice to have', scoring 19% and 12% respectively.

This reinforces the fact that for most viewers content remains king and technology that helps people find the shows they want to watch, at a time that suits them, will win every time.

As a result, linear viewing is set to remain very important for the foreseeable future - Futuresource predicts that 80% of viewing will still be linear by 2015 - with new technology such as mobile TV or second screens, supplementing existing viewing not replacing it.

Consumers want evolution, not revolution, but they will continue to demand high quality and event based television.

So what should the industry take from this? Simply, the strongest brands that engage consumers and build advocacy will win.

Cost will play a big role, but it is not just a case of free versus pay - demonstrating genuine value for money is essential.

Viewers will look for technology that enhances their viewing experience, while the take up of new technology, such as 3D and mobile TV, will be slower.

This is a really exciting time for the industry and with broadcasters continuing to supply high quality content, it will be the TV platforms and manufacturers that improve viewer experience with easy to understand, accessible enhancements to existing technology that will succeed.

The brands that understand this and offer a clear and engaging proposition to deliver that content will be the winners in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Guy North, marketing communications director, Freeview