TVNZ’s Jeff Latch and Andrew Shaw on brand integration, stacked content and reaching the young’uns

Sky’s chief executive John Fellet has said many times that it’s far easier to buy content than to make money from it. And while the new season launch of a major broadcaster often gets picked up in the excitement of all the latest shows to hit the screen, the team at TVNZ knows that only part of the job is done.

TVNZ director of content Jeff Latch says that in addition to traditional advertising, about brand integration and sponsorship will play a major role for TVNZ over the next year.  

He says locally produced shows offer the opportunity to integrate brands into it, giving the example of Kiwi Living. He says the gardening and magazine-based programmes lend themselves to it.

While integration of brands may seem disruptive to viewers, Latch says they have come to accept it – particularly in the DIY programme space. He says it’s something TVNZ has been apprehensive about because if it was to go too far it would destroy the experience for the viewer, however, over the years it has learnt it’s “the norm”.

“With cooking shows, it’s the same,” says Latch. “If you’ve got supermarket brands over the show or you’ve actually got different people providing the ingredients or the ovens or the whatever, that all seems to be [for the audience]‘yeah that okay, I get that’.”

However, he says there’s less ability to integrate brands into international content. Instead, brands get “wrapped around” those programmes and Latch says that’s when you see “so-and-so is proudly presenting X, Y, Z”.

There is also the opportunity for brands to create content that sits alongside the show and is linked to it in some way or create an extension of the show for the viewers to participate in.

“The sponsor can actually be more involved in that, and they can actually run it on their own website assuming they’ve got one, and so there can be some sort of cross pollination between what they’re doing online and what we’re doing. That works nicely.”

He gives the example of Survivor which will be hitting screens in 2017. He says there was limited ability to wrap brands into the show itself, but there is an opportunity for brands to be wrapped around it.

Another programme announced in the new season line up that could see advertisers flocking in is My Kitchen Rules NZ, with celebrity chefs Pete Evans and Manu Feidel signing on to be the judges.

Both will be familiar to viewers who tuned into My Kitchen Rules Australia and Feidel in particular, as he has proven to be popular to advertisers. Campaigns he has been involved in include Magnum and Campbell’s.

As well as its programme lineup, TVNZ’s new season launch also saw the announcement of a holistic approach to its platforms in order to make viewing content easier for audiences. Offering more content on TVNZ OnDemand than ever before, including live steaming of all its channels, there will no doubt be a bigger online audience for brands to make the most of.

But with online ads comes the threat of Ad Blockers, however it’s not something Latch seems particularly concerned about.

“I think that’s going to become a bigger issue for us,” he says. “At the moment it’s not very big.”

He says time will tell what impact the capability has on TVNZ and it may have to come up with some technical solutions.

MediaWorks has already made a move in this space, announcing earlier this year the enabling of a server side ad insertion that enables a seamless play of unblockable video across all platforms.

MediaWorks head of digital sales and ad strategy John-Paul Randall told StopPress: “We get all the ads and put them into where they need to go amongst the content in ad break positions and that essentially becomes one piece of content and plays from start to finish,” he says. “… the ads appear as content so [ad blockers]can’t stop that event from occurring.”

As well as the classic video and banner ads, TVNZ is also offering brands opportunities in the TVNZ OnDemand Shorts section that launched late last year.

Brands can come on board and collaborate in the production of content, before it appears on TVNZ OnDemand as well as the brand’s own platforms.

Microsoft was the first to take up the opportunity to work with TVNZ in the creation of shorts and since then Latch says other brands have come forward to do the same.

TVNZ general manager of content solutions Lyndsey Francis told StopPress 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.

And trying something new is exactly what TVNZ is doing, with Latch saying it’s been structuring bespoke content solutions for brands that aren’t what they had first thought they would be.

“It’s been interesting how some have wanted to work with us on concepts and ideas that we’ve actually developed and others have just said, ‘that’s great, but can you make something for us that’s unique? We might like it in this space’. That’s interesting,” he says.

This ability to create unique solutions for brands is a sign of growing capabilities of the in-house TVNZ Blacksand team.

“In terms of the services we offer, they’re so much more multifaceted than they used to be. It’s enabled us to do things we couldn’t do before, so that’s cool. It’s the future, I think,” says Latch.

Fast and stacked

On the topic of the future, one area where traditional broadcasters have battled is with younger viewers. 

We live in a world where audiences—particularly those on the younger side—have become increasingly comfortable watching what they want when they want it. Monthly SVOD subscription numbers are growing consistently, with the Nielsen Digital Trends 2016 report, showing 14 percent of New Zealanders watching television content online do so via a subscription based on-demand service such as Netflix or Lightbox. More specifically, 13 percent of New Zealanders aged 15+ use Netflix and five percent use Lightbox. The same report showed 29 percent of New Zealanders aged 15+ use TVNZ OnDemand.

In acceptance of the shifting consumer habits and in a bid to change with the times, TVNZ will be increasing its stacking rights on its TVNZ OnDemand platform to compete with SVODs that offer whole programme seasons and satisfy viewers’ binge-watching habits.

This move doesn’t come without its risks, and until now the logical argument was that making box sets freely available would lead to a cannibalisation of the linear audiences still integral to advertising revenue. 

However, TVNZ’s Andrew Shaw, general manager of  programming, commissioning and production, says this kind of thinking is old school.  

“It’s no longer one win,” he retorts. “The win comes in many forms.” 

Shaw argues TVNZ must strive to cater to different kinds of audiences, including those who liked to watch stacked content. And contrary to the belief that this will lead to audiences not tuning in to free-to-air, Shaw says that the early adopters—those who watch stacked shows—often drive interest, which leads to higher linear viewership.

As a corollary, this also makes the TVNZ OnDemand a more attractive proposition for advertisers looking to reach the young’uns. 

Experimental programming

Another way TVNZ is looking to engage with younger audiences lies in investing in less conventional types of programming. And much of the experimentation is happening on TVNZ Duke.   

This is the first season launch for TVNZ Duke and among the programme lineup is content, which Latch says would never made it on to TVNZ 1 or TVNZ 2. One of those is the eLeague – a gaming competition.

“They would always clash with Breakfast or they’d clash with the six news or they’d clash with our fixed commitment to Shortland Street. With Duke, we don’t have that same restriction,” he says. “That’s been a real game changer for us; so we can do eSports, and put it out free to air. We can do the NBA; we can do the NFL; we can do major sporting competitions, whether they’re eSports or traditional sports; and other events.”

Professional and competitive video gaming, known as eSports, has seen a boom around the world in recent years, with its global revenue expected to hit $463 million this year—a 43 percent increase from last year.

To support it, South East Asia and the UK already have dedicated eSports TV channels, while locally it’s hit the screens on Sky Sport 3 and soon to be Duke.

Latch says Duke also lends itself to the gaming community because it’s able to be streamed online and watched via the consoles they play on like the PlayStation and Xbox. Those capabilities are already getting some traction with the screening of Duke’s US sports content, with people watching the NFL via the devices and Latch hopes it will hold similar appeal for those wanting to watch eSports.

However, first Duke must get the message out that it is airing eLeague – something Latch says is one of the challenges in the fragmented media environment. To overcome this, TVNZ is probably going to use online advertising and is looking hard at search engines in order to capture the attention of those in the online gaming space.

“People search that and they say, ‘Oh shit, I can actually go and watch eSports on Duke. I never would’ve known that. Fantastic’.”

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