ITV will launch an SVOD service next year, CEO Carolyn McCall (pictured) confirmed in a keynote at MIPCOM in Cannes.
“We wouldn’t be making the right shifts, given the world around us, if we weren’t also looking at doing something much more directly with the consumer,” she said.
The former EasyJet boss said the direct-to-consumer service would be separate from the advertising-supported ITV Hub and would be ITV-led, although the broadcaster would be looking to work with partners on the project. Reports earlier this year suggested that the BBC and Channel 4 were in talks with ITV to create a streaming service to counter the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime in the UK.
McCall, however, said the planned service was not a “British Netflix”: ““Netflix is Netflix. What we will do is specific and differentiated for the British market.” She noted that the two companies are in business together in some areas — through ITV Studios — and competitors in others.
“I think they’re more friends than enemies,” she said, adding that the likes of Netflix and Spotify have helped move a generation of consumers to paying for content delivered online.
“It is a significant shift for consumers to say ‘I want to pay for what I want in content’,” she said. “Netflix is an important client for us and they’ve changed the way consumers view. We just have to respond to that change.”
She said that ITV’s research supported the idea that consumers are prepared to pay for multiple SVOD services, provided that what they offer is distinctive and good value. Since she joined in January, ITV has invested more into data analytics and the art of understanding more about its viewers: “We’re creating a division that is about directly connecting with the consumer, which they really want,” she said. “We have communities of fans that want to have a deeper relationship with us.”
The new service will feature “British-originated content” to start with and will develop original content at a future stage. It will have a “phased” rollout as the company experiments with the best interface and content options for viewers.
McCall said, “We’re not saying we will launch with that. We’re not doing a ‘Big Bang, this is it’. It’s perfect, we know what we’re doing immediately. This is about testing and making sure we are listening to viewers and consumers. It has to be differentiated.”
She added that ITV will plough around £60 million into ITV Hub to make it “much more of a destination where people want to spend time because there will be more personalisation”.
McCall said, “It will become a much richer user experience and that’s what we are investing in now, and we’ll start seeing that by Christmas and by next year. It’s a phased plan. So it’s really step-changing the offer on VOD.”
She also addressed the threat of the technology giants to traditional media companies, arguing that ITV’s reach remains substantial: “Ten years ago you could get 70% reach in Britain by using ITV. Today you can get 70% reach by using ITV and hub. There’s been no diminution of reach as a result of all the changes that are taking place.”