Monday 23 October 2017

RTE overhauls its distribution plan to meet changing media patterns

Licence fee reform has stalled, but RTE intends to adapt to how people consume content, writes Sarah McCabe

One of the new principles is that RTE content be displayed prominently on whatever platform is carrying it, and is easy for viewers to find Photo: Getty Images
One of the new principles is that RTE content be displayed prominently on whatever platform is carrying it, and is easy for viewers to find Photo: Getty Images
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

RTE is overhauling its distribution approach to take account of the changing way in which people consume audiovisual content.

Media consumption patterns are changing dramatically, particularly among young people. This includes the rise of 'on-demand' catch-up services popularised by television groups like Sky and Virgin Media, and the growth of internet-only streaming platforms like Netflix.

The vast majority of RTE video content, 90pc, is still consumed live - and the broadcaster wants to make sure it is not left behind.

It has established a strategic group, led by new director of strategic platforms and partnerships Aisling McCabe, to take control of distribution for all media assets - some 25 different services - and ensure its content reaches as many people as possible, consistently. New core principles have been developed that will underpin all partnerships made between the State broadcaster and any platform that carries its content.

"We're experiencing unprecedented changes and the value chain is witnessing significant disruption, which requires a new approach from RTE as a multimedia organisation," McCabe told the Sunday Independent.

RTE's first deal under the new strategy was recently inked with Sky. Timeshift channel RTE +1 and RTÉ HD launched on Sky boxes in December. Rolling news channel RTÉ News Now launched in January and playback service RTÉ Player will launch in the coming weeks.

One of the new principles is that RTE content be displayed prominently on whatever platform is carrying it, and is easy for viewers to find. "Prominence is important to ensure that independent and high-quality public service media is accessible to all audiences and not hidden in algorithms or changing user interfaces. Our objective is to ensure that Irish audiences get access to the content that they are entitled to," said McCabe.

Branding must also clearly identify content as made by RTE. "It is essential that the brand attribution for RTE services comes back to RTE so that audiences know the content is independent, high quality and public service."

The broadcaster is also asking for more data about viewers from the platforms with which it does deals. Internet-connected services collect vast amounts of data about viewing habits. "We want to understand our audiences and how they consume RTE programmes/services so that we can continue to enhance our services to meet changing audience behaviours and needs," said McCabe.

Challenges to RTE's revenue model are also being tackled. In some instances RTE cannot easily measure its impact for advertisers on some platforms, which limits its ability to sell ads and sponsorship.

"In addition to the licence fee, commercial revenue is derived from advertising and if audiences can't be measured in a way that is recognised by advertisers, our revenue is negatively impacted and therefore a key pillar of our funding model is undermined. In some cases we need to apply new economics to relationships."

The strategic group is also tasked with reaching new markets. A recent win was a deal with Roku in the US for the international Gaelic Games service, GAAGO. Roku boxes are streaming devices used by millions of Americans.

But while RTE builds its strategy for changing media consumption, proposed changes to the TV licence fee to reflect the same have stalled. The Government had planned to extend the TV licence fee to all households regardless of television ownership, but Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said last week it had no chance of being passed in the Dail.

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