Having Your Cake And Eating It

Apparently it wasn't Marie Antoinette who coined the phrase 'let them eat cake', but rather a more obscure ante-descendant. However, the phrase has stuck and applies well to commercialising TV in the 21st century.

The latest organisation to try to have its cake and eat it is the UK's leading commercial broadcaster, ITV. It has introduced a paywall for certain content with lowish charges for one off viewing of content.

Now, I'm on record as a huge fan of 'layering': that is, introducing layered commercial opportunities within an overall content delivery strategy.

For example, making certain content available for free with advertising or sponsorship support and then charging membership or pay-per-view for other types of content. Indeed, there are a range of commercial possibilities in this model:

Pre-pay-per-view - where a content item is made available online before it has been broadcast for a premium.

Sponsorship - getting a brand to pay for delivering the service.

Advertising - in all its complicated guises from wrappers to pre- and post- rolls.

Subscription - charging a monthly subscription.

Membership - the classic 'TV everywhere' model whereby a user paying for content on one platform gets it for free on another platform; but there are other varieties of this model.

Club - this is a model that we've long toyed with, but that has failed to materialise: this is a 'loyalty card' type scheme whereby members garner points for interacting with the content, eg get points for watching ads and are charged points for watching content, or who get loyalty points that can be spent on real goods and services.

Vcommerce/ecommerce - again, surprisingly little utilised, from the concept of using house ads to leveraging the ability of video to sell.

There are other varieties and opportunities, such as client content bidding, but we'd be doing a dis-service to the consultancy side of TV Everywhere if we were to give the full blueprint away!

So, does all of this work? Certainly I found ITV's approach to be puzzling - surely micro-charging for content in a context where users are used to micro-payments such as an iPad app would have made more sense ? Instead, the content on the iPad remains free (although you cannot project it onto a big screen via HDMI and Apple Play). It should be noted that the UK's Channel 5 has failed and removed a pay-per-view capability in the past, bu as with so many things in the commercial world, it could be a matter of timing, not approach.

Certainly, it cannot be denied that paywalls are beginning to work in the publishing world. the New York Times has over half a million digital subscribers and it's interesting to see the 'forever free' newspaper in the UK begin to eye paywalls with envy. Perhaps News International were right to have the courage of their convictions.

The fact is that the Netflix/Lovefilm business model is quickly colliding with that of the traditional broadcasters as they try to maximise the rights windows available to them. I wonder who will lose their heads in the process ?