The Broadcaster's Loyalty Conundrum


The recent explosion of content, content distributors and platforms, means maintaining loyalty is more difficult than ever for network and channel brands.

These days, flagship programmes and ‘talent’ brands are often the ones who hold the viewer relationship and loyalty, not them. So what does this mean for broadcast brands going forward? Can they ultimately make this work in their favour?

2010 saw some of the major US networks launch silo reward schemes for cult programmes. USA started offering ‘Character Rewards’ for Psych in 2010; and ABC launched the ‘In Crowd’ for Pretty Little Liars super fans the same year. Others followed suit to dangle ‘points-mean-prizes’ carrots for viewing and sharing online content, programme participation, or positive word-of-mouth.

While it’s a great idea to provide fans with interactive rewarding experiences and to broaden the reach of returning series, the credit and loyalty transference back to the network is limited.

NBC’s Fan-it is a step in the right direction as it actively incentivises loyalty across the entire network. But I’d suggest the real hero here is HBO Connect. Not satisfied with offering material rewards through GetGlue, HBO’s unique second screen experience allows fans to join the conversation with like-minded others and easily navigate to more HBO programmes they might enjoy.

HBO cleverly has reclaimed the relationship with the viewer and it’s win-win for all.

Fans can engage further with the shows, have access to their stars, and the behind-the-scenes-talent, all courtesy of HBO. HBO, as a result, deepens its relationship with them. This social TV site goes beyond transactional rewards to ensure the programme and talent affinity is anchored back to the network.

So in the future, should all broadcasters be thinking about building loyalty through providing enhanced experiences rather than dangling reward carrots?

Channel 4’s Scrapbook and Food Network’s Pinterest collections provide more examples of creating ‘value-added’ services to drive loyalty. Curating content (beyond just their TV shows) in innovative, audience-friendly ways will ultimately lead to more loyal viewing behaviour, in VOD and in real-time.

Stepping further outside of broadcast land, there’s further inspiration for thinking differently.

Let’s consider some of the best practices from innovative technology brands like Apple and Skype, who have incredibly loyal fan-bases. They constantly have their brands, products and services in beta, inviting their users to contribute to making better brand experiences. They are testimony to a sense of shared responsibility and mutual respect fostering ultimate loyalty.

Couldn’t channel brands do something similar? Think e4 inviting viewers to create idents; or Fringe getting re-commissioned thanks to its fans, but on a grander scale.

So can we answer the broadcaster’s loyalty conundrum?

Well, we can learn from best practice, but the differences between broadcaster models means there is no one-size-fits-all approach. In the near future, advances in audio water-marking will make all kinds of new things possible, but the bottom line is we should be thinking about what will make viewers genuinely like us, as well as be loyal to us.

Are there any other examples of broadcast brands doing loyalty well? Let me know in the comments below.

Chrissy Jamieson, Planning Director