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TVNZ live streams all channels as it rolls out next phase of its digital strategy

We talk to TVNZ general manager of technology Greg Montgomery about the strategy behind the broadcaster's recent web revamp.

By Damien Venuto | June 30, 2017 | news

TVNZ has this week started to live-stream TVNZ 1 and 2 via a new website that now houses all content owned by the broadcaster.

The revamped site now features TVNZ 1 and 2, Duke, 1 News and all the on-demand content that viewers previously accessed through the now discontinued TVNZ OnDemand site.

TVNZ has until now only live-streamed Duke, using the channel as a guinea pig before rolling the feature out across the broader offering.

The state-owned broadcaster’s general manager of technology, Greg Montgomery, says this move has been made to accommodate the different ways in which viewers watch content these days.

The technology behind the new app and website is responsive, adjusting to fit onto the viewer’s preferred screen, be it mobile, tablet or laptop.

This is a push by TVNZ to be where its audience is. With the steady uptick in online streaming through the various SVODs on the market, there was a risk that broadcast television was essentially being left behind in a realm that some viewers (particularly those on the younger side) were no longer engaging with. By introducing a live-streamed version of broadcast television, TVNZ is basically taking its broadcast offering to where the audience has moved.    

 

The stream is also adaptive, which means it adjusts to match the quality of the user’s internet connection. In this case, going from an HD-quality 720p picture down through a range of lower-quality streams.

The idea behind this, says Montgomery, is to give users the ability to enjoy content at the highest possible quality at home on a decent Wi-Fi connection, as well as on the run where they might be dependent on 4G or 3G.  

The service does not, however, give users control to set the stream quality at a preferred level, as is the case on Netflix.    

But at this stage, Montgomery doesn’t see this as a disadvantage given the TVNZ service will not munch quite as much data as top-level Netflix streams.  

“We’re not a 4K Netflix environment, where we’re going to take 10mbps and then say sorry later. We have quite a compact streaming capability,” he says.  

He says that if the need for those kinds of capabilities arise, then TVNZ will address meet the demands of its audience.

Ongoing strategy

The launch of the new site also serves as a continuation of TVNZ’s strategy to bring its family of brands closer together.

At the end of last year, the broadcaster updated the logos and names of all its channels to create a more unified collection of brands across the portfolio.

This aesthetic change prior to the relocation of the brands to the new site has allowed for a cohesiveness that would not have been as seamless had the old livery been retained.

The new site and app allow viewers to jump between the different channels with a single click—which Montgomery believes could lead to a higher level of discovery than you’d have in a standard broadcast setting.

“You can jump around and just find different bits of content. Especially with channels like Duke, viewers might find there are some options they don’t know about.”

The on-demand content related to these different shows also sits alongside the live-stream, allowing for viewers to catch up on past episodes if something piques their interest. On the flip side, viewers watching on-demand content will also be given the option to live-stream the channels on which the content airs.

“This adds convenient navigation for the user,” says Montgomery.

“I like web design that’s elegantly simple. It has to have the feel of professionalism and quality, but complexity isn’t what we’re driving for. Instead, we’re trying to anticipate what you’re looking for without aggravating you.”

The setup of the content on the new site also allows for better incorporation of branded content related to shows.

If, for instance, stars on Survivor NZ were to develop digital content for a commercial partner of the show, this could now be embedded alongside the live stream and the on-demand content.

“There are a number of brand new opportunities as to what we could do with the new site,” he says.

Additionally, the site also presents a greater opportunity for exposure of OnDemand Shorts content, which has until now existed primarily as a section in the OnDemand hub.

TVNZ will hope that this leads to a few more brands investing in the production of this type of content.

Logged in  

Back in 2014, TVNZ required users to sign in to TVNZ OnDemand to use the service. And with the update to the site, users will now also be required to log in to watch the live TV streams. The only section excluded from the log-in requirement is news; however, those who have logged into the on-demand or live-stream section will remain logged in if they navigate across to the 1News content.

Herein lies arguably the biggest commercial opportunity of consolidating all the content under a single hub. The quarter of a million subscribers who log into TVNZ every week to give the broadcaster access to both their entertainment and news viewing preferences as they tally up a weekly average of 1.5 million streams.

TVNZ owns this data exclusively—and in the hands of the research team, the raw numbers can be turned into insights that might present a few opportunities for brands.

“It’s highly valuable to understand who they are and what they’ve identified as, what their viewing habits are, and which devices they’re using,” says Montgomery.

“All this observational data is really important and we can then start looking at what we can drive from that behaviour. For instance, we’re currently looking at how we can personalise the experience around the viewer’s habits.”    

Bringing the audience together also gives TVNZ greater scale, which is imperative when vying for ad dollars against not only Google and Facebook, but also the other major sites in New Zealand.

Whether this move leads to an uptick in digital revenue is yet to be seen. But as Montgomery says, a website is never really complete because there’s always room for a tweak here or there.

“We are starting to adopt more agile practices in the way we build our products, the idea being that we can be more viewer-led,” he says.

“We want to measure how people are responding to features and then iterate incrementally to improve features and functions. It’s just about making sure we keep learning as we go. We don’t really see a finish line with some of these products anymore.”  

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