What's YouView going to mean for brands?


Recent months have seen much talk and speculation about the impact YouView and other web-enabled TV technologies are going to have on the way we watch TV and the way we use our TV sets.

It's easy to see why. In theory, given the right app, we'll be able to access pretty much the whole internet from our TV screens. From checking your bank account to updating your Facebook status, in theory just about anything is possible.

And with such a monumental shift on the horizon, not only broadcasters but brands across categories are getting to grips with what a web-enabled TV future might mean for the way they connect with their audiences.

So what predictions can we make for how audiences will react to the new technology? To what extent will it change the way we use our TVs, and what opportunities will it create for advertisers?

The first thing to note is that most web-enabled TV platforms have steered well clear of positioning themselves as “web on TV’. Lessons from the past tell us that most people just don’t want to use their TVs to get online - WebTV, later MSN TV, never managed more than 1,000,000 subscribers globally when it launched back in the 90s.

The fact is, just because technology lets people do something doesn't mean they'll want to do it. Habits die hard and, as habits go, chilling out in front of the TV is one which is pretty damn ingrained for most of us. Plus imagine the family arguments over the remote control caused by attempting to interrupt Hannah Montana to check your work email. In homes where there is access to any kind of laptop or smart phone, the TV is unlikely to become the device of choice for general web browsing.

Rather, YouView plays right into existing audience behaviours by positioning itself not as a web experience delivered via your TV, but a TV experience powered by the web. VOD services are therefore likely to be the key appeal for audiences at first, rather than app capability. This is supported by figures from Virgin Media, which show that VOD on the main TV works for people. Once they get BBC iPlayer on their main TV set, usage soars versus those who only have access to iPlayer via their PC.

This doesn’t mean that web-enabled TV platforms won’t generate all sorts of opportunities for brands, but rather that tapping into those technologies requires creative thinking about existing TV behaviours. The brands that succeed on YouView are going to be those that know how to manipulate, create and take advantage of the video content people like to watch.

We’re predicting a future where linear schedules and VOD services become springboards for a whole host of related content and services. So, for example, you might click through from a sponsorship ident for a 360º view of a pair of shoes you’ve just seen in Gossip Girl or open up a series of how-to videos connected to a project you’ve just seen on Grand Designs.

So whilst YouView isn’t necessarily going to change the way we all use the web, it is going to dramatically increase the opportunities for brands to creatively engage people around TV content.

Alex Huzzey, Senior Strategic & Digital Planner