ITV and BBC Join Channel 4 in the Three Screen Race

This is a big week for online video initiatives in the UK. The BBC has announced approval by the BBC Trust of its online on-demand video service which will operate via the proprietary iPlayer (see my previous post for a little more detail). The service will essentially operate as an online catch-up TV offering, enabling consumers to temporarily download the last seven days programming.

Also ITV is on the verge of announcing a revamp of their online content portal with extensive free, ad supported video expected. To date ITV has experimented with charging for online video with its Champions League football coverage.

All of which has left Channel 4 feeling a little left out, given that they have been pioneering TV channel driven video downloads in the UK with their 4OD service. So, in order to not to miss out of the media attention they have just announced that Ďwell overí one million people have watched 20 million programmes on the 4OD service since launch 6 months ago.

Yet despite Channel 4’s impressive start, the premium online video isnít actually that big a deal in revenue terms. By 2012 European online TV and Filmed Entertainment revenues will only total Ä 677.9 million (less than half of digital music revenues). Clients see our Paid Content forecasts for more details.

So why all the activity? The answer is that online is directly impacting the way that a whole new generation of consumers watch and acquire video. Thatís not to say that the YouTube generation is shunning TV (online is consistently augmenting overall media consumption) but it does mean that as a TV channel or operator, your audiences will be spending an increasingly large amount of their time online. You can either consider that as lost time or start engaging with them there.

We recently published a report for content owners grappling with how to deal with what strategies to adopt across the Three Screens (clients click here) and we will soon publish another on how online is impacting media consumption. (Also see my previous weblog entry for more on Jupiterís European Three Screen coverage.)

There are some parallels here with how the Internet impacted the newspaper industry. But the outlook is somewhat more positive. Whilst many newspapers have struggled to grapple with competition from online, the TV industry has a real opportunity to build audiences online and engage with them in ways in which linear TV simply does not permit.