As part of its new season launch, TVNZ announced the impending introduction of a short-form platform called OnDemand Shorts, which will be housed within the overarching TVNZ OnDemand offering and feature three- to five-minute video clips.
"We’re in the process of looking at acquiring and commissioning more of our own short entertainment series," says TVNZ commercial director Jeremy O'Brien.
TVNZ has already experimented with shorter-form content, recently housing the Loading Docs documentary series within its OnDemand offering.
"We have dipped our toe in the water," says O'Brien, "but this is about a commitment to create a short-form destination. We will put our marketing grunt behind this and we will be building it as destination in its own right within OnDemand."
O'Brien stressed that TVNZ would be focusing on series rather than one-off clips, and explains that it creates an opportunity for brands to produce shorter content specifically for the platform.
"The other thing that we’re announcing is that we are starting to partner with advertisers on their own brand-funded content. And so, we think there’s a really good opportunity for us to create and promote advertisers’ entertainment stories and create a real destination within TVNZ OnDemand, which extends what we have there currently."
O'Brien points to Channel Four in Britain as an example that TVNZ hopes to emulate on this side of the world.
"Channel Four launched short-form content within their on-demand site about nine months ago, and it now generates over five percent of the total viewing streams on their on-demand platform. And they created 43 different series off the back of that within the nine months, some of which is their own and some of which is funded by advertisers. One of their advertiser-funded offerings is around the automotive sector and it’s called Alfa Shorts. Alfa Romeo has created their own short-form content and it’s about spreading passion for automobiles. It’s fronted by Guy Martin, who’s a well-known motor enthusiast and he tells short stories about the passion people have for automobiles and motor racing. This series has altogether around ten to 15 pieces of individual content under that over-arching series."
While brands are already uploading their content to YouTube, O'Brien makes the point that the Google-owned platform is very cluttered.
"”The challenge for advertisers in this market at the moment is that you can spend a whole lot of money on your own content and put it on YouTube. For everything on YouTube that has 100,000 hits, there’s ten others that get 100 or 1,000”.
And he also says that TVNZ OnDemand gives advertisers the guarantee of Kiwi eyeballs through the 750,000 verified subscribers currently using the service.
"It's just Kiwi eyeballs," he says.
Another struggle advertisers face is pointing viewers to the content they've created, but O'Brien sees this as an opportunity rather than a challenge.
"We will absolutely make sure that we give the audience the chance to know about it and find it. We can promote it through the breadth of reach we get across TV One and TV2. So, it will be about driving people to that destination to get that content."
According to O'Brien, the creative standards on the platform will be a little higher than those usually applied to native advertising.
"The ultimate test of this will be viewer appeal. If it doesn’t work for a viewer, we’ll need to change it. And if it does work, then we need to do more and more of it ... I guess that’s slightly different to the more conventional information-based native advertising, in that the series should primarily appeal to the viewer and be entertaining."
TVNZ will be setting up a series of workshops in October that will give advertisers insights into the type of content they should be producing.
"At those workshops, we’ll have Robbie Spargo who has come over to us from Fremantle Group in the UK, where he was working with Fremantle on their YouTube content strategy. So he’s setting up an ad-hoc solution team that is now providing us expertise and advice around the types of genres, the types of content and the way to market it."
Advertisers will also be able to tap into the production resources TVNZ has at its disposal.
"We’re going to provide advertisers with access our own great storytelling and crafts people in terms of our commissioners and some of the team in TVNZ Blacksand, as well as outside production facilities and studios," O'Brien says.
On a side note, Scout recently pointed out what it felt were similarities between its approach and that which TVNZ has announced:
"Yesterday Television New Zealand made a big splash announcing they were unveiling a new initiative to merge entertainment and branded content in short, snackable entertainment videos. Sound familiar? Yes, MediaWorks made the same announcement in June… and this week launched Scout. Now TVNZ is jumping on the bandwagon. We are not saying this is a ritually responsive move by the state broadcaster and a token effort in response to Scout, rather than a core part of TVNZ’s strategy, only we kinda are. MediaWorks long figured out – and the behemoth that is TVNZ has slowly formed the same opinion – that short-form entertainment video is the future and branded native advertising content is a significant part of the commercial plan."
However, given that OnDemand Shorts focuses on original series and that it isn't affiliated with any specific publication, this seems a bit of a stretch.