Mark Britt, the CEO of Nine Entertainment’s digital arm Mi9, has taken aim at his rivals declaring they have been too “hesitant” to seed new programming online and declaring the Australian TV industry will never have a single Hulu-like catch-up service.
He told Mumbrella Nine’s catch-up app had now reached more than 670,000 downloads while the Jump-in website, which relaunched in November, has had 5.7m unique browsers.
“You build community around great shows well before and well after they go to air. I think they (Ten and Seven) are too hesitant and I think they are missing the opportunity,” Britt told Mumbrella.
The digital boss said the network which lagged behind some of its rivals in catch-up, before relaunching Jump-in last year, was now firmly competitive in the space and was using online to seed content and build buzz around programs such as Love Child and The Block.
What is driving our growth is extent of content on the service — for example, The Block which just ended had 3.5m streams for the series which is a new record for an Australian catch up series,” said Britt.
“You need to engage with the fanatics around shows. The whole focus used to be on the water cooler but what we are now seeing is the fanatics are driving the buzz around a show and then the energy that sustains it across the series.
“If you look at Love Child we released it to the web before free to air and made the first four episodes available to the first 20,000 viewers. It then launched to 1.4m viewers on the back of phenomenal social media buzz and in addition we have had 1.1m streams of episodes as well.”
Britt also rejected calls by the likes of Network Ten for the industry to move to a single platform for catch-up TV in Australia.
“There has been a debate about an industry app but we don’t think that a broad generic industry app makes sense for this space,” said Britt.
The position stands in contrast to Ten’s chief digital officer Rebekah Horne who last year told Mumbrella: “It would make sense for that to take place… the key thing for them to figure out is the key to the broadcast business and the best technology distribution mechanism.”
Britt said that any cooperation in the social TV or catch up space would have to be built on third party technology and lead to a poorer outcome for consumers. “This space is too important to rely on a generic third party application,” he said.
“One example of that is we launched 16 camera angles for the State of Origin last year, we did that on Jump-in, the web and mobile for the Anzac Day test.
“Those things are only possible when you’ve gone and made a level of investment in proprietary technology.”
“The same thing is true for advertising that the level of depth of integration we want to provide for people across TV, desktop and mobile is only possible in a proprietary environment. You can’t deliver the sort of advertising outcomes on generic third party experiences.”
Nine’s position also puts it in line with public broadcaster SBS whose CEO Michael Ebeid last year declared on one catch up platform: “The boat has sailed on that one.”
Britt also acknowledged the ongoing frustration of media buyers about the lack of inventory and calls for the networks to increase the number of ads in their catch up services.
He said:”For catch up video the density of advertising is lighter than TV but we think works for user experience. We will keep on testing the right level of density.
“We will have a model that is ultimately driven by consumer feedback and get the right balance with the right model for the business and the right consumer experience.
“The big thing for Jump-in is to bring together everything that is engaging about digital television into one place — social TV and catch up into one place on an advertising supported basis.”
A spokesman for Network Ten said in response to Britt’s remarks: “Mark Britt should spend less time focussing on his rivals and more time finding a way to salvage Jump In, which has been a spectacular failure.”
A spokesman for Seven declined to comment on Britt’s remarks.
Rival networks Ten’s catch up app Ten Play, has had 500,000 downloads, while its social app Zeebox has not released its download numbers. Seven’s social app Fango, according to the network has 995,000 downloads while its catch up app Plus7 has had 900,000 downloads.
Nine’s Jump-in combines a catch up app and social TV app in one.