We’re delighted to present a fascinating and illuminating guest post from our friends at Prospero, a strategic advisory firm, specialising in media and sports.

The currency for measuring return on investment in TV programming is well understood: eyeballs and international sales. By comparison evaluating success and ROI for digital or multiplatform commissions is considerably more difficult.

Digital or multiplatform content (MPC) is now core to broadcasters. At its most exciting it can substantially expand the TV proposition and in rare instances, such as Roar on CBBC, can outgrow its broadcast parent to build a life of its own. MPC can not only deliver new audiences, it can enhance audience engagement and stimulate advocacy. It can also open up new revenue streams.

Roles of MPC

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Evaluating the success of MPC investment is complicated. Value may be direct (on the web itself) or indirect (enhancing the TV share or building talent). Many of the potential sources of value are difficult to quantify. Even apparently direct revenues (such as advertising and sponsorship) are often packaged with TV sales, making it difficult to identify the specific contribution of digital investment.

Source of MPC Value

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A Prospero survey of MPC commissioners and producers in Europe and the US identified the following:

  • Commercial broadcasters are focussing on high reach entertainment and game shows which can be monetised. Experimentation is limited (to budgets of under £20k).
  • In the US this is even more marked with MPC spend limited to marketing budgets; the exception being big brands which adopt a studio-like 360o approach to exploitation;
  • PSBs are leading the way in experimentation and see MPC as an effective tool for delivering public value but are poor at monetisation
  • MPC is most effective when it has clear objectives (eg The Sopranos game based on knowing what happens next was aimed at keeping second screen viewers)
  • Synchronous activity is increasingly important especially in game shows (where it will become the norm) as it really enhances engagement

Current MPC Dynamics

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Broadcasters are focussing on fewer bigger projects with increasingly sophisticated approaches to how and when MPC is used. For instance, the BBC has identified four roles for MPC: to anticipate, to amplify, to extend and to bridge TV content.

BBC Four Purposes of MPC Investment

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Organisational approaches to MPC commissioning vary. Most broadcasters’ retain dedicated commissioners with specific digital skills, remits and relationships. Others, such as the BBC and YLE in Finland, have integrated MPC into genre and channel commissioning. These changes encourage measurement of success across platforms rather than in MPC “silos”.

Whatever the approach, the most successful MPC is rooted in the audience relationship with the programme; rather than in digital activity for its own sake. It requires close alignment with and understanding of the core brand. At its most effective (such as The Only Way is Essex and Million Pound Drop) MPC can help build appointment to view programming.

Over the next few years MPC will play a pivotal role helping broadcasters to build the direct consumer relationships, insight and data required to monetise audiences. Understanding which models are most effective will be essential.

Tabitha Elwes, Partner, Prospero: tabitha.elwes@prosperostrategy.com