STV broadcast chief Bobby Hain on exploring a digital pathway

SCOTTISH
Television signalled its digital roadmap by unveiling a deal with Google to host thousands of hours of branded content
on video site YouTube last month.

Meanwhile
its website has just enjoyed a record month for unique visits, driven in part
by rapier sharp news content and soaraway success of its new iPhone App which is said to have been downloaded around 50,000 now.

The
World Cup has just been shown on STV HD, its catch up service STV Player is
already proving a hit, and plans to roll out STV Local are well advanced.

Last
week managing director broadcasting Bobby Hain gave an interview for media
podcast Quiet News Day.

It was part featured on allmediascotland.com, but there was much more he said of interest during our interview at STV headquarters in Pacific Quay, Glasgow.

He
said: “The YouTube deal is very exciting because it is a new era for
broadcasters and online giants working together.

“You
don’t have to go that far back where people were talking as rivals, talking of
the internet and television purely as rivals that one would conflict with the
other.

“Very
quickly we’ve got to a place where collaboration and partnership is very
important to both the YouTubes and the Googles of this world, and also the STVs
of this world.”

Explaining
why, he said:  “What it does really is
free us up from the constraints of our terrestrial transmitter pattern.

“Here
is a series of regions defined by the 1950s technology – there’s one in Central
Scotland, one in the North of Scotland – and until the last 10 to 15 years you
really had to be in those regions to watch programmes from STV.

“Increasingly
online is a way for us to develop our presence and to connect with people who
may not live in the area but may have an interest in Scotland and an interest
in our content.”

He
added: “What’s really exciting from our point of view, with 400 million users
worldwide, YouTube is a perfect platform for us to be on.

“It
means if you have any kind of device whether it’s a smartphone, or a PC or a
Mac or whatever you have, you can log into YouTube and you can watch the vast
majority of the content STV produces.”

However
he insisted eagerness for digital didn’t mean the old model was redundant,
just that they could run side by side to improve what they can offer to an ever
more switched on audience.

He
said: “The idea of being a static television broadcaster is still an attractive
idea.

“If
you look at it from a technology point of view, the use of a one-to-many
broadcast platform is still very efficient.

“If
you try to serve streaming version of the X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent down
an internet service provider pipes, that’s a very expensive way of doing it by
comparison with DTT broadcast platform which you’ve already invested in.”

“Broadcast
television remains very important for us – but increasingly it’s not the only
play.

“We
have to be able to be accessed wherever people want us.

“You
have things like the STV Player online, increasingly the mobile strategy – our
first foray into mobile has been the iPhone app and even the success of that
has caught us by surprise.

“We
thought there would be an interest. We didn’t think it would be as big as it
has been.”

Hain
insist such innovations and future collaborations will play an increasingly
important role going forwards.

He
said:  “It comes back to the STV Anywhere
strategy. You cannot sit as a digital terrestrial broadcaster and ignore these
technologies. 

"You have to be there for people for when they want you.”

“This
is very much a journey. This is turning from being a television broadcaster
originally with analogue only to being a fully digital media business that
serves content across all the platforms.

“We
have to experiment to reach out and try things.

“It
was both YouTube and STV’s desire that the deal we did was not exclusive for
the very reason that YouTube said you guys need to experiment, you need to come
onto platforms and see how you can best exploit your content.

“We
also felt we wanted to have an opportunity to take it to even more places both
in the UK and across the way.

“There
will be other deals to be done, there will be other places to view STV content
and other partnerships to be forged.”

But
for STV, strong programming and the way it is used is as important and breaking
new ground and getting involved in new platforms.

Hain
said: “It’s always difficult to know exactly how new services are going to
emerge until the point that they actually do.

“We’ve
heard the name GoogleTV, we know it’s to be launched at some point in the
States quite soon.Talking to the Google guys when they were here for the
YouTube launch, I don’t think there is a UK launch confirmed yet.”

“We
absolutely want to be part of new platforms and to make our content available
where we go and I think this is the interesting part about where the old meets
the new.”

“One of the good things about the television
system that we’ve had in this country is it is absolutely predicated around UK
origination, so the BBC has a very strong record of creating UK content and the
Channel 3 network has a very strong connection to UK content.

“We
rely on it, we thrive on it, we make new entertainment, new drama, soaps etc
etc. Actually, I don’t see that model working immediately purely on the
internet.

“I
think the combination of the very strong penetration that you still have as a
free to air broadcaster on television in the UK, coupled with the additional
penetration you can reach through the internet, is a very potent combination.”

“We
would be delighted to participate in new services as they come along and as
they make sense to us.”

But
he knows they have to be selective, as it stands, over that what will work for
one audience may not be a one size fits all solution.

He
said: “The television model, which is long form, high quality video –
increasingly in high definition – transfers perfectly to online.

“If
you take the highest rated online show we’ve had this year, it’s been Underbelly,
which was part of the strategy that we have very consciously and deliberately
set out to take more control of our schedule.

“It’s
a good example of an acquisition we made because we thought that piece of
content was a good return on investment for us, and it would serve us well on
television.

“It
has done that, and, it’s had the added bonus of being a fantastic online
offering attracting the biggest audience of any programme of STV s far this
year.

“When
you add the YouTube window to a much wider audience to that content which will
be associated with STV, that’s a very exciting prospect.”

Buying
in content is one thing, but Hain looks to the future when a whole community of
users will engage in creative solutions.

He
said: “The online interaction will have a return path to broadcasting and I
think there is some very exciting work to do with the online community that’s
very used to making its own content, creating ideas for content and posting all
kinds of short form clips, very creative stuff.

“If
you can tap into that and get some of it back to become television programmes,
that is a really exciting return path as I call it, so this is a two-way
street.

“It’s
not just about posting your programmes in the way you do on television where
you can’t talk back to television.

“You
can interact with online content, you can come back, and we already have plans
to try and tap into that online creativity and end up with something that goes
on TV.”

So
too the way news programming is approached with fresh community engagement.

Hain
said: “It strikes us that there is a way to use our news resources, our
existing content, because it’s all about Scotland and it’s all about different
parts of Scotland and we’ve got news teams up and down the country.

“And
there is a way of combining that with local information, user generated
information, material that is not just simply posted up there but is
editorialised if you like – there is somebody shepherding it and looking after
it – we have regional editors, community editors, so people who loves this
stuff rather than just letting it happen on its own.

“But
we’re trying to lead a discussion rather than being the only people who talk on
these sites.

“We
want a community engagement and we want people to feel that those sites,
whether it’s a small part in the North East of Scotland or a bigger part of the
West of Scotland, whatever the community is, the size of the community, we want
people to feel those sites are for them and that they have a voice and that
they can connect with people locally, find local amenities, be in touch with
council and local government services, all the things you might do online but
in one place.

“I
think we have permission to do that because we have a very strong connection
with Scotland. We are already understood as being a media provider by 90 plus
per cent of Scots who watch us every month.

“It
is very important to us, we think we have an excellent idea to connect with
people online in a way which hasn’t happened yet, and we are about to start
rolling that out.”

One huge issue still to be resolved is how
STV, under its current public broadcaster terms, can afford to fund news in the
way it does now.

It
lost out with its bid for the Independently Financed News Consortium licence which
was then ripped up by the new Con-Dem coalition team at Downing Street.

But
what happens now?

He
said: “This is very much still a question for Government.

“The
idea of the IFNCs was it was a solution to the question ‘how do you sustain and
maintain a high quality news service outside the BBC?’.

“The
previous government’s suggestion was you would use a small amount of public
funds to create the IFNC pilots.

“That
might give you a sustainable way to continue using public money to create a
rival service for the BBC, or rather than create to sustain a rival service.

“The
basic problem being that the value of Channel 3 licences in a world where there
are not one or two commercial operators there are hundreds of commercial
operators available to viewers, the value of licences in those circumstances is
a lot less.

“It
doesn’t really warrant spending £10 million or so which we still do on a news
service. So the question is, how do you fix that problem?

“If
IFNCs are not the answer to that, the question hasn’t gone away, so you still
need to find out how do you arrive at a position where either you accept that
news will have a lower investment, and you put up with that, or you try and
find other ways to move towards a more commercially sustainable model for
delivery of news.”

He
added: “I think we are obviously at a very early stage of the DCMS thinking
under the new ministers, but we are engaged in that process.

“There’s
also the suggestion now that local would be the way to go, that the idea of
having more localised television could be one solution.

“That
is something that is being independently thought through by Nicholas Shott,
the Lazard banker who is consider the report for the DCMS.

“In
short this is still up in the air. It’s not IFNCs, we know that, we don’t now
know what the solution is going to be or, indeed, what’s going to be expected
of Channel 3 licences in the long term.”

Hain seems supremely confident that the future for Scottish Television
is a bright one.

He
said: “I’ve never been more excited. I’ve been here 10 years and I think as
much as people were predicting that the online revolution would make things
difficult for traditional media companies, I think it’s quite the opposite.

“I
think people with a very strong relationship with an audience, which we have,
can use these new technologies and this new media which allows them to connect
in different ways, very, very interestingly.

“That
leads to a very exciting series of potentials, you are beginning to see STV
Local, STV Player, or the iPhone App or even the YouTube deal, some very
interesting possibilities that will bear fruit for us.”

 * Bobby
Hain in conversation can be heard via free subscription on
Quiet News Day Episode 36 via iTunes
 or Liberated Syndication or at the new Quiet News Day website

 

 ENDS

 

 

 



Categories: Hyperlocal, Media philosophy & trends

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 reply

  1. The future, given the IFNC callback, is very interesting. Good luck to STV on how they approach this. I think they have one of the few (the only?) progressive media strategies in Scotland at the moment

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