Short but sweet: TVNZ trumpets its short-form content and its opportunity for brands

Now more than ever, audiences are dipping their toes into a number of different forms of video content, from Snapchat to YouTube, to Facebook. But with the the world wide web diverting Kiwi eyes away from local content, it makes it difficult for brands to target them. So TVNZ has aimed for a solution with its locally produced ‘shorts’ short-form content and it’s already got a few brands on the bandwagon. 

TVNZ launched its OnDemand Shorts section late last year and although it’s dedicated to short-form content, TVNZ general manager of content solutions Lyndsey Francis says it’s not trying to be YouTube. YouTube is home to a diverse range of content, while TVNZ wants to be the local story teller for an audience that wants to hear local stories.

As well as the dedicated section on TVNZ OnDemand, there is also a belt on the website’s homepage, which includes a selection of ‘shorts’ among other programming to draw in the 1.2 million users of the site. Of those users, the shorts section makes up approximately six percent of total usage of the site, which TVNZ feels confident about considering the UK’s Channel 4 was deemed a huge success for achieving five percent of usage with its shorts.

Francis calls the section a “curated hub” of content because unlike YouTube and other streaming services, audiences don’t have to work hard to find what they are looking for or to find something new to spark their interest.

Within it there is an opportunity for brands to come on board and collaborate in the production of content. The videos will be included in OnDemand shorts but Francis says the brand takes ownership of the content and can distribute it on its own platforms.

“There is no walled garden here, we absolutely understand that audiences are found in many many different places and there’s benefit for both us and the brand in having mutual distribution capability.”

TVNZ is able to get its content out to a new audience while the brand has the opportunity to access a market in those who use TVNZ OnDemand.

This opportunity appealed to Microsoft when it launched the Surface and it became the first to partner with TVNZ in the creation of shorts. Windows and Surface product marketing manager Jordanna Murray says those who follow TVNZ may not be those who follow the Surface brand so it was a way to take the brand to a new audience.

The actual product was positioned in the background of the series while it focused on what people achieved with it.

In a truly collaborative style, Murray was involved in the production process alongside Blacksand, something TVNZ encourages all its clients to do when creating the content. Francis says it’s good for the client to be on set to see and understand how the brand is being positioned as well as drive the direction of the content.

“I think it’s really appealing to brand owners to be able to see a little bit more about what’s going on, the process and how we tell the stories,” she says. “But it’s also really valuable to us to make sure we are framing it up in a way that they want it.”

Francis says Microsoft was brave to take a leap of faith and be the first to do it, and now TVNZ is working with a number of brands to do the same. One of those is Frucor Beverages, which has taken a different approach to the Microsoft series and created a fun and playful series for its Fresh Up drinks. Francis says one of the benefits of producing content for online is it doesn’t have to fit into an audience time slot schedule, so there are more opportunities to push the boundaries and try something new.

As well as the main video, the content is cut into shorter clips for further distribution by the brands.

Even when cut down, the clips play a different role to a TVC, Francis says. TVCs are a much more overt, pushed out message, often about a product, that have an important part to play in the communications mix for brands. The shorts however, are created to entertaining and informing audiences, something they would expect from the content on the OnDemand site, she says.

The promotions TVNZ uses to attract audiences to the shorts continue to differentiation the content from traditional brand advertising. TVNZ promotes the shorts on its platforms in a similar style to programme promos, which include teasers and directions to OnDemand. She says audiences feel they are going to watch a programme rather than branded content. However, Francis says it is not hiding the fact some of the content is branded. Like sponsored videos, they feature a “brought to you by” banner.

Although products are not at the forefront of the videos, there is still a need to understand the behavioural change of the audience and know what engages, motivates and inspires them through storytelling and it’s a knowledge TVNZ brings to the table. Francis talks about the need to be considering centennials, as well as millennials, because despite being only a few years younger, centennials have their own media consuming habits.

She says TVNZ’s approach to audiences is different to agencies, which are trying to sell a product, because it is a storyteller.

“That’s our bread and butter, from the newsroom to the commissioning and programming team, it’s how we actually tell the stories to New Zealanders that really matter.”

The OnDemand Shorts section as a whole has a “younger skew”, Francis says, with a male and female balance that is better than the broader OnDemand site. She says the feedback from millennials shows they “love the section”.

Helping to provide the local content to the section is TVNZ’s partnership with Loading Docs. The documentary platform has recently launched 10 short documentaries featuring local stories, produced by local filmmaking talent and TVNZ OnDemand has made a home for the documentaries in the shorts section.

While TVNZ has created a hub for local short-form content, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for Kiwis on YouTube. NZ On Air partnered with the website earlier this year to launch a $300,000 Skip Ahead fund for local YouTubers. In addition to funding, the chosen YouTubers will also get the chance to up-skill, with training in how to produce content, how to write and how to promote their channels.

The funding is for narrative-driven webseries.

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