ITVX hits over 1 billion streams in 5 months and sits in the sweet spot of streaming services.
At a time when other streaming services are seeing high churn rates of over 40%, ITVX is growing across many key indicators, including Brand Awareness, Consideration and Streams.
So, how exactly are they steering against the tide?
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jane Stiller, Chief Marketing Officer of ITV, to understand what makes ITVX such a valuable proposition and the one to watch (forgive the pun).
She is a dynamic CMO that really understands the pulse of the British public and how their entertainment preferences are evolving.
When asked about the vision for ITVX, she said, “The ambition is to significantly increase our users, our streaming hours and our subscribers over the coming years, and progress so far is very positive.”
An ad-funded on-demand entertainment model
According to Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends (2023), around 60% of households now use a free, ad-supported streaming video service, and roughly 4 in 10 say they watch more ad-supported services than a year ago.
Furthermore, both millennial and gen z audiences are churning at an increasing pace from paid-for streaming services; the expense is largely cited as the root cause.
It comes at a time when in 2022, Netflix increased their prices which would no doubt further exacerbate this trend.
“ITVX has a key advantage in that it’s free”, says Stiller. Whilst they have a Premium subscription product, the main viewer offering is advertising funded. This chimes with the times in two ways; firstly, more people are open to ad-supported streaming, and secondly, the net beneficiary of the current churn rates on paid-for streaming services is indeed ad-supported options.
It reminds me of a beautiful saying about disruption, “wait till a silicon valley firm is able to do what you do for free”. Now, of course, ITV isn’t on the West Coast, nor does it suffer from some of the trust issues we have recently witnessed amongst tech platforms.
ITV is a hugely trusted and loved brand in the UK; in particular it’s marginally off the BBC as the most trusted media brand, according to Statista. Plus, Jane doubles down on the importance of making this a brand-safe environment for advertisers. So having a clear sense of responsibility to viewers and advertisers shines through.
The sense of irony hasn’t gone past me that a UK-based firm could well do the disrupting over Silicon Valley, in this instance. Particularly, as Netflix just reported that viewer numbers in EMEA have overtaken North America. So I would say they are in for some stiff competition on this side of the pond as this market grows in importance for them.
Masterful Marketing Launch
We rarely see big launches of new media platforms of this magnitude and ambition, so I had to ask Jane, how did she pull it off?
“First of all, we built a powerful proposition, rooted in viewer insights. Next, we identified the key messages we needed to land to drive the reappraisal of ITV in this space.
As part of this we identified a target audience called Mainstreamers who are warm to ITV and already displayed on-demand viewing behaviours – they are the perfect combination for us and feel ‘winnable’.
We then invested heavily in brand design and development – we reviewed the market, identified what would stand out, and worked hard to create distinctive assets from the start. So the colourways, the usage of the ‘X’, and how the product opens and closes, were all carefully crafted so we had something ownable.
The campaign then was focused on reaching everyone, but with a particular focus on our target audience -Mainstreamers – of which there are 23 million. We built a multi-million-pound campaign, using distinctive assets and key messages throughout every piece of creative. We didn’t shy away from investing in brand, but also invested heavily in the bottom of the funnel to convert viewers.”
An impressive display of holistic marketing thinking, I would say. It bears the hallmarks of spot-on marketing science, a brand and performance combo, targeting light buyers, utilising and building on distinctive brand assets. Not to mention a thorough ‘4P’ approach to ensure every detail was meticulously thought through prior to lift-off.
Culturally relevant, current content
One of the most critical aspects of building a brand is knowing exactly what you stand for, actually scratch that. The most important aspect of building a brand is to ensure your consumers know what you stand for and resonate with it.
In this regard, Jane says, “The proposition focuses on ITV’s unique selling points around reflecting and shaping modern Britain, so you’ll see more homegrown talent, plus a greater focus on Live UK based events.
Our positioning is to be the UK’s Freshest Streaming Service, and our definition of fresh is about how it’s constantly changing with the mood of the British public.”
Always staying on top of what the British public knows and love is crucial to success. ITVX is positioned as the ‘go-to’ service for ‘fresh’ content and means it doesn’t miss a beat as its audiences evolve.
I like it because staying relevant is at the heart of this proposition. You see, it strikes a balance between understanding what you do and knowing when it’s time to evolve. So take what you’re known for and constantly sizzle it up for the times.
This formula can also be seen in how they think about the role of ITVX vs broadcast and live TV. Jane says,
“Broadcast and live TV is still really big – and there’s nothing that brings the nation together like Saturday Night Takeaway, I’m a Celeb or a big ITV1 drama.
We still see substantial viewing figures for these shows, and the amount of television people watch hasn’t declined at a macro level.
Viewers are watching in different ways though – they want live moments but also on demand content, always available and ready to binge. ITV can offer both, so we’re so confident in our proposition.”
How will you be entertained in the future?
I asked Jane to look into the crystal ball for a minute and give me her take on how she thinks the world of entertainment will look in the future. Here is her take:
“At its heart, people want to watch great content and I don’t see that changing over the coming years. I think viewers continuing to want both live and on-demand TV experiences will continue. These experiences being further integrated with social and virtual spaces, I think, will increase.”
Her last point is particularly pertenent as I believe the role and purpose of entertainment will evolve in coming years. Its where we will get our sense of community, confidence and connection. We will desire more immersive experiences from entertainment that draw a closer connection to our reality. A streaming service that can achieve this will be in a take all position.
ITVX has had a stellar start and continues to defy the odds, but done so because of its rich understanding of the customer, what makes them unique, a business model fit for our day and content that zings in relevance.