Since TVNZ quietly rolled out its user profiles on OnDemand, more than 55,000 users have identified themselves, which has opened the broadcaster’s eyes as to who is on the other side of the screen.
Prior to the launch, Aitken says it typically only had the details of one user in a household as multiple people will watch from one account.
Now, the number of user profiles is likely to rise as TVNZ’s figures show OnDemand reached 340,000 people in the financial year to 30 June 2019. During this time, there was an 80 percent increase to 184 million streams, with average weekly streams reaching 3.7 million.
When each user is creating a profile, they are required to share their first name, year of birth and gender. There is also the option to share their email address.
In exchange for their details, users get their own space on the platform, allowing them to watch content according to their own preferences and Aitken gives the example of different household members watching the same programme but at different rates.
“Where you have multiple viewing occasions in the household, people have the opportunity to have their own space,” she says.
“If you are watching a show and one of you gets ahead, it means when you keep watching, it’ll be from where you finished.”
And when they’re watching, the ads they are served are relevant to them.
This ability for TVNZ to make a personalised experience for users means advertisers also have the experience.
O’Donnell says prior to the user profiles, TVNZ had log in data for households, but now with individuals identifying themselves advertisers can me “more personalised while still having mass reach”.
“As I talk to them, they are impressed by the levels of sophistication that we have across our platform.”
An important aspect of the profiles is the ability to have children’s profiles that provide a safe environment for parents to be confident with their children exploring in.
“There is age-appropriate content and it doesn’t matter if they go and explore and find other things because they are in a really good environment to do that,” Aitken says.
There are two age groups for children profiles, each one allowing for different levels of programming and advertising.
In the zero to five age group, children will have access to age-appropriate content with no advertising.
The next group, five to 12, has age-appropriate content as well as age-appropriate advertising. There’s also the option for parents to allow PG content.
“So, whether you have that next level older or not so you have really good control around what your kids are seeing in there,” Aitken says.
Apples and oranges
Looking at the wider video on demand space – beyond TVNZ OnDemand – there is only one competitor for TVNZ when it comes to BVOD (broadcast video on demand) and that’s MediaWorks.
However, TVNZ also sees the local and international SVODs (subscription video on demand) providers as competition.
However, there is a major difference and that’s BVODs offer free to air content with advertiser support, while SVODs are paid for by the user and don’t have ads.
O’Donnell says people understand this transaction and why they see ads of TVNZ OnDemand and no ads on the likes of Netflix.
“They understand in the linear world that trade-off and that has replicated itself in the OnDemand world where they understand that trade-off.
“Yes, there other SVOD service that are ad-free but they also know that comes with a monthly subscription bill versus two or three ads in between each chapter.”
This insight comes from research TVNZ and Colmar Brunton undertook last year to learn how different contexts impact a viewer’s level of engagement and attentiveness when watching ads.
During the research interviews, participants were asked if they expect to see advertising on broadcast TV, 69 percent “agreed strongly” or “agreed slightly”.
When asked if they don’t mind being shown a couple of ads at a time when watching TVNZ OnDemand, 65 percent of participants “agreed strongly” or “agreed slightly”.
Talking to O’Donnell about the “couple of ads” on TVNZ OnDemand, she says from the beginning of TVNZ OnDemand it made the decision not to replicate the linear experience.
This means in the place of a few minutes of ads between programme chapters, there are just a few ads.
“You get two-three ads in between each chapter so the experience is quite different on TV compared to OnDemand,” O’Donnell says.
“We are very careful with that environment to make sure we are ensuring that it is as good of an experience for the viewer as the advertiser as well and that’s a big point of difference for us in the market.”
Another point of difference for TVNZ is the ‘Ads on Pause’ opportunity, which displays an ad when content is paused.
O’Donnell describes the as “billboard-like” as it takes up the entire screen.
“When you pause on your OnDemand, you get a great big billboard in your lounge room,” she says.
Helping give the ads a “billboard-like” display is the increased use of connected TVs meaning users are watching OnDemand on the big screen.
In September 2019, 44 percent of total OnDemand streams were on connected TVs and TVNZ credits the technology for a large increase in OnDemand viewing.
With TVNZ OnDemand now building user profiles, it’s collecting more data than ever before.
Aitken acknowledges it’s asking people to give up their data and says it has worked really hard to keep the exchange as light as possible while still getting the basic information needed to shape the experience.
“There are certain things we simply have to collect and it’s also important for us to have the opportunity to identify if we are offering the right content to a certain group of people,” she says.
“Without having that basic information, we can’t be sure we are attending to all New Zealanders.”