What should TV brands do to extend their reach?

Two TV channel executives discuss the prospects for brand extension and how social media is changing the way their businesses operate.

Steve North, Bill Griffin
Steve North, Bill Griffin

STEVE NORTH GENERAL MANAGER, DAVE

- How has television evolved into creating TV brands and not just TV providers?

Dave has started to develop its brand beyond a TV channel into a more distinctive multiplatform offering. As broadcasters move into a multiplatform world, distinct brands will become increasingly important but, with the exception of the BBC and some on-demand services, few TV channels are ready for this. For broadcasters to be true brands, rather than channels, they need to answer the question: what is the purpose of a TV channel and its value to consumers beyond the TV screen?

- What does extending TV channels beyond TV do for the brand?

It provides channels with new and exciting ways to talk to fans. Channels can start to build powerful brands via linear TV, but it starts to get really exciting and multifaceted when you bring a brand to life via the web, Facebook and Twitter. It's a way of integrating the brand into fans' lives.

- What are the main reasons for extending television brands besides commercial gains?

The non-commercial benefits outweigh commercial at the moment, but that is changing. A greater integration of media platforms creates more engagement with fans. At Dave, we look at when, where and how our viewers are interacting with us and target accordingly. That's the only way to keep a channel brand contemporary and relevant.

- Is it easier to create events, DVDs and merchandise for comedy channels and programmes?

There is a clear route to take comedy from the TV screen to other outlets, but it's not a simple route to commercial success. The stand-up comedy market is very competitive, with a number of big-name players. Top stand-ups are brands in themselves and don't always need the support of a TV channel.

There are easier genres to create merchandising around; for example, children's TV.

- What do you feel social media has done for television brands?

Social media is beginning to have an impact on how TV brands operate. It has brought viewers, producers and broadcasters closer together through the use of tools such as Twitter and Facebook that provide instant feedback. This information must be handled carefully and the temptation to make knee-jerk changes based on chat should be resisted. Used carefully, however, it can provide a real insight into how shows are being viewed. From a marcoms perspective, social media offers a relatively cheap and highly targeted tool with which to talk to fans. Messages can be moulded and managed to suit different audiences and environments. There is also great opportunity to find channel or show advocates who have the potential to be invaluable in securing success.

- Are commercial partners the future for extending the reach of TV brands?

They are certainly part of the future. There are two key areas where commercial partners play an important role: sponsorship and programme funding. From a sponsorship perspective, there is great potential for brands to work together creating a mutually beneficial relationship - Dave and Old Speckled Hen is a great example of this, where award-winning idents have given Greene King credibility and Dave a presence in pubs. For advertiser-funded programmes, both parties can benefit creatively and commercially - but the project has to be right for both brands. Just because a show comes fully funded, it does not automatically equal a commercial success. But both parties benefit when you get it right. We've had tremendous success with Red Bull X-Fighters, and this area is only set to grow.

BILL GRIFFIN MARKETING DIRECTOR, COMEDY CENTRAL

- How has television evolved into creating TV brands and not just TV providers?

There have been merchandising spin-offs and events for years. These are straightforward deals to do, and generally involve the late exploitation of a successful format. The skill is in understanding the relationship people want to have with TV brands; watching a show is one thing, but buying a "vejazzling kit" in Superdrug is another. Blending social media, data and TV events will be more rewarding. Ben Silverman's Fashion Show in 2012 will be notable in terms of integrated thinking from commissioning onwards.

- What does extending TV channels beyond TV do for the brand?

There are three things that can enhance a channel's performance. First, these initiatives broaden reach so more people can encounter the brand in different ways. Second, they can deepen relationships with fans via dedicated events. Third, they can open up new revenue streams.

- What are the main reasons for extending television brands besides commercial gains?

Straightforward marketing ones - additional promotional opportunities in the short term but, in the future, the creation of tailored and personalised content for advocates and brand ambassadors.

- Is it easier to create events, DVDs and merchandise for comedy channels and programmes?

Not necessarily - it works across all genres. It is probably easiest for sport, but comedy works well with the right teams and shared objectives.

- What do you feel social media has done for television brands?

Television is a more sociable activity than it first appears - millions of people simultaneously doing something they love. Social media now connects them in a way that linear TV can't. This year, The Voice on NBC has been amazing from this point of view. Ultimately, social media will be completely transformative for TV, but the future lies in merging the two - it is more than social media "supporting" TV brands. The age of "two screens" is upon us, and integrated social media widgets from brands such as YouView will only make this more prevalent. Think Xbox Live, then overlay The X Factor.

- Are commercial partners the future for extending the reach of TV brands?

They are part of it. The future lies in a one-to-one relationship - an audience of a million people becoming a million audiences of one person. You can see the first signs of this with the new Virgin Media TiVo platform, and with the Channel 4 plans recently announced by its chief executive, David Abraham: data, insight and personalisation. Clearly, there are going to be huge commercial benefits to bespoke advertising solutions - this is where TV and the web truly merge.

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