17 January 2006

Broadcasters reap benefits from TV on iTunes

I came across this article at tvweek via a few other news services.

In a nutshell, both NBC and ABC have experienced increased ratings for shows that have been made available on the iTunes Music Store.

I would not have guessed this would happen, but it is surely a real positive coup for Apple as it attempts to get more content for the store. Whether the networks banked on such an effect is open to question (my guess is they couldn't have foreseen it, even if they claim they did).

But really, the effect is quite obvious if you think about it. There are numerous ways in which availability via a different method than just the broadcast can have a positive effect back on viewing numbers. In my own experience (not much of a tv watcher!) I've often followed a series quite closely until I've missed an episode. That has served as a trigger not to continue watching any more. If I'd been able to download the missing episode, then perhaps I would have continued longer? Another way, is that people get introduced to it via the online method, and then become regular viewers. In another example, I've shown some friends episodes of some comedy shows recorded using EyeTV as filler after watching a DVD together. It is easy to see someone becoming attached to that series after being exposed to it this way.

When tv shows were first made available via the iTMS, there were many sceptics. Why pay anything for something that is avalilable free? But the iTunes experience is showing that there are many subtle benefits to having additional distribution. How many people never even find a show because they weren't in to watch it and never set up to record it, but find it much later?

Whether this will encourage the broadcasters to delve deeper into the online world and get a bit more adventurous (how about pilot episodes for free?), and whether it will encourage some content in the UK (come on BBC!), I don't know. But such news won't harm such prospects. Perhaps the music industry should also take a look at this and see how digital methods could actually reinforce their physical/traditional models rather than seeing it just as an alternative?

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