Newteevee have reported that ABC are finding that their original online video content does not perform nearly as well as webisodes of shows such as Ugly Betty.
This isn’t a fair comparison. Ugly Betty is one of the biggest shows on ABC; how does traffic for smaller programmes compare to original web content?
A clear distinction should also be drawn between original content and additional content. Additional content has a clear advantage in having a ready-made audience.
The article concentrates on short-form content. It is worth pointing out that long-form catch-up content behaves differently – Ugly Betty’s catch-up performance may not be as strong. This makes sense as not all shows necessarily have repeat value – if lots of people are viewing it on TV then there will be fewer wanting to watch it online.
Though, Ugly Betty has two characteristics that make it more likely to be viewed in catch-up. The first is demography – younger people are likely to be more active and more in need of a catch-up service. Hence shows targeted at 16-34s will find they have a greater percentage of their total audience viewing after the event. The second is genre. Comedies aren’t as critical to be viewed live as sport or reality content (and personally, I prefer to “series-stack”).
But, ultimately, live viewing has the lure of being able to watch new content immediately, and being able to participate in watercooler chat the other day. This is why we find there is a skew in top shows online compared to top shows on TV – check out these stats for single episodes views from the BBC and ITV. They are quite different to top TV episodes.
Short-form content, on the other hand, is additional content. Viewers of this are therefore going to be very closely tied with programme viewers. Passionate advocates of a programme are going to be those that watch live and those that consume the additional content. Using the Coronation Street example (as I repeatedly do), the viewing figures for alternative versions of a character’s death were huge.
I’ve already posted on how TV and online video are complementary rather than contradictory. But it is worth repeating that web traffic to TV channel websites (at least in the UK) is closely correlated to viewing audiences. Big event shows bring in mass audiences viewing live. In pure scale, there are going to be more advocates who want to consume additional content. But these types of show also have very high levels of engagement. If people are talking about a show, they will want additional content to fuel their chat.
This isn’t meant to do original broadband content a disservice. I am a big fan of made for broadband shows – as this list of twelve web series to check out should indicate. They have many benefits, particularly to brands that can explore ways to interact with consumers in a creative and entertaining manner. This article from Broadcast magazine explores this concept, and includes some of the great research done by the people at Futurescape.
Merely, it is simply to highlight the unfair comparison. People visit the websites of TV channels with specific content in mind – they rarely go to browse. TV programmes have much greater visibility and consumption than web-only shows, and it is only natural that they contribute the majority of traffic