The future of viewership

Appearing at MTVN's upfront bash in New York, the host of The Daily Show labeled television a dinosaur that will avoid extinction only if it sprouts multiple delivery modes. And that, Jon Stewart quipped, is why one upcoming show 'will be delivered through Jell-O shots' and another 'will take place in a can of Red Bull.'

Appearing at MTVN’s upfront bash in New York, the host of The Daily Show labeled television a dinosaur that will avoid extinction only if it sprouts multiple delivery modes. And that, Jon Stewart quipped, is why one upcoming show ‘will be delivered through Jell-O shots’ and another ‘will take place in a can of Red Bull.’

What’s actually in the works isn’t quite that extreme. But plenty of innovative strategies are being concocted on both sides of the border to retain viewers, regardless of which platforms the content and commercials are delivered on, or the size of the screens they’re viewed on.

In Canada, during the upfront presentations, nets like CTV and CHUM got digital, revealing robust plans to engage viewers beyond the box. Here’s a sampling:

Online content downloads:

CTV beat the rest of the Canadian nets to the punch by launching the ad-supported CTV Broadband Network, which provides free content downloads of entire episodes of shows from four distinct broadband channels (CTV shows, CTV News and Docs, etalk on Broadband and the Discovery Channel on CTV). Show offerings currently include: CTV News, Canadian Idol, eTalk, Corner Gas, Degrassi: The Next Generation and Instant Star, and the net plans to offer even more content this fall.

‘For our broadband and mobile, we’ll have sponsorships, contests and interstitials or vignettes that we can create for clients,’ says Rita Fabian, CTV’s SVP sales and marketing.

CHUM is also working on increasing mobile content and currently makes 12 shows for mobile.

‘People already want things when they want it and how they want it,’ says Maria Hale, CHUM’s VP content business development. ‘The future is definitely about an on-demand audience. So if you want to hit the broadest audience, you need to provide content in a non-linear as well as a linear fashion.’

Mobile:

CTV also revealed plans for made-for-mobile video news services for CTV News and its financial station, ROBTv exclusive to Bell Mobility customers. CTV News will feature a three-minute branded newscast which will be updated hourly, while the ROBTv service will offer stories, exclusive mobile interviews and analysts’ ratings.

Also noteworthy, for the recently launched fourth season of CTV’s Canadian Idol, Telus Mobility became the sole carrier of the mega-hit’s all-important viewer voting via SMS. Special-access content developed by CTV for Telus subscribers includes: downloadable segments of performances, ringtones, backstage passes and even judges’ voice tones.

Web Portals:

At CHUM, examples include partnering with Yahoo! as the portal and Web engine for both MuchMusic VJ Search and Canada’s Next Top Model.

For Next Top Model, CHUM is employing some of the successful techniques from its recent VJ Search program. Besides offering unique content online for VJ Search, umbrella sponsor P&G had a segment wherein its Secret brand was featured in the ‘Secret Confessional,’ – a branded amount of time when the finalists vented. With Next Top Model, it’s ‘Olay Model Behaviour.’ All segments are downloadable online and via cellphone. ‘This provides us with millions more impressions,’ says Susan Arthur, CHUM’s marketing director. Canada’s Next Top Model’s other key sponsors are Pantene, Nice ‘n Easy and Cover Girl.

VOD on Cable & IP-TV + ITV:

CHUM is studying the viability of providing on-demand content via both set-top boxes and IP-TV. For example, says Hale, ‘we’re looking at getting involved in Telus TV to provide VOD content. We’re also looking at what can be done with ITV.’