What do advertisers really think of ITVX’s bold step into the future?

ITV intends to build for the future upon new streaming service ITVX. Its announcement earlier this week obliterated a chunk out of its share price – but what do the media agencies that will pay a premium to advertise on the platform think? The Drum investigates.

ITVX was announced on Thursday morning (March 3) and purports to be the UK’s first integrated advertising and subscription-funded (AVOD/SVOD) platform. Paid viewers will have access to 15,000 hours of content, including some 52 exclusives. As ITV takes the BBC’s slice of BritBox, that will be available too. With all this new inventory, ITV will lean upon its addressable tech Planet V to offer advertisers the targeting they’ve become accustomed to in a premium TV environment.

Furthermore, ITV’s new digital-first windowing strategy in commissioning will see ”much of its new content first on ITVX and subsequently months later on ITV linear channels.”

Carolyn McCall, ITV’s chief executive, said ITVX will ”supercharge” its streaming business. She added that it will optimize broadcast channels by ensuring the largest possible audiences.

But are media agencies impressed with what they’ve seen so far?

The industry responds to ITVX

Joe Box, reservation manager at M/six agency, says ITV wants to be the UK leader in streaming. He doesn’t think it has done enough by just merging ITV Hub+ and BritBox.

“ITVX will have 15,000 hours of content, and viewers who have the subscription tier will get an exclusive premiere each week, but fundamentally whether people will want to watch this vast content will depend on whether it’s any good.”

ITV has upped its production budget from a forecast of £1.16bn to £1.23bn this year, which will again rise to £1.35bn next year. It will need content that 16-34s find appealing, as for too long it’s over-relied on the appeal of Love Island to tick this box. That segment is falling away from linear again as we exit the pandemic. But Box doesn’t think that means ITV should rush to dismantle the market-leading linear service millions still enjoy.

“ITV’s live environment is an excellent showcase to cross-promote shows, both within commercial minutage in breaks as well as discussion and clips showed across their morning and daytime programming. The more viewers ITV draw away from this environment, the faster the big numbers for their largest live shows may start to fall.”

There’s always a balance to strike, as with the Spotify conundrum. The more people ITV brings into its SVOD tier, the less reach it will be able to offer to advertisers. Subs will be worth more to ITV, but can it risk losing advertisers as the streaming wars reach a violent period of inflation?

Box adds that ITV still has to make it really clear to buyers how ITVX will work with the Planet V offering. And pricing is still to be declared on the consumer and B2B sides.

Mihir Haria-Shah, head of media at Anything is Possible, thinks ITV may be a little late to the party with the launch, but wonders if the share price hit is due to all the recent talk we’ve had about ‘peak streaming’ (it was a common topic of conversation at an industry event just one day earlier).

From what AV teams will want from the service, Haria-Shah wants a clearer example of the value exchange. “The data in and data out is crucial to buyers and clients, and I think most understand the value exchange of paying slightly more to understand the exact impact their broadcast advertising is having. ITV Hub’s targeting capabilities have improved significantly in the past few years and this is probably in part due to Planet V. It would be good to see the targeting options enable us to get even closer to bespoke audiences on X.”

He’d like to receive data during and post-campaign on who he has reached, and match that with client data to “understand whether that has driven web visits/sales/bookings.” He adds that it is a “really powerful way of demonstrating how effective a TV campaign has been – something only a few players in the CTV world are able to do.”

It’s all about eyeballs, and that requires the best content. He wonders if ITV is bringing enough firepower.

“Consumers have become so accustomed to having new content on a monthly or weekly basis and that will be no different for ITVX, but they have had to do this for linear TV for decades, so this is a challenge that they should relish. The obvious concern is competing with the bottomless pockets some of the SVOD services seem to have.”

Ian Daly, head of AV at Bountiful Cow, believes the ITV Hub was “stale” and welcomes the refresh, but he wonders if ITV’s already beaten.

“I would argue that Sky Q has already nailed content curation from a consumer perspective. It’s a slightly different proposition to ITVX, but Sky Q has set the bar extremely high nonetheless. All4 has a fantastic content library, but may be worried that ITVX’s intention to aggregate external VOD suppliers could leave it isolated.”

He adds: “The idea of ITVX becoming an aggregator of numerous other VOD platforms is interesting. The paid-for TV providers (namely Sky Q) are already very good at curating content across linear and online via their STBs, and smart TV providers are not far behind. There is no doubt that ITVX will house some brilliant content, but whether it will aggregate and curate content in a way that inspires discovery will be interesting to see.”

Next, Rhiannon Murphy, head of activation at The7stars, thinks the launch is a natural next step for ITV based on its ‘more than TV’ strategy.

“Positioning ITV as digital-first business isn’t a bold move, it’s the right move. We are all very aware of the linear viewing challenges, and in turn the inflation challenges that broadcasters and advertisers alike are facing.”

She adds: “Behaving more like other SVOD platforms and releasing content for consumers to binge on months before it is transmitted on linear totally makes sense based on all our learning around how viewers now consume content; however, the concern would be about potentially cannibalizing the linear viewing of shows.”

Finally, Dave Castell, general manager EMEA at adtech firm The Trade Desk, made a final point about the tightening consumer purse with a cost-of-living crisis ahead. “ITV has tapped into the importance of consumer choice ... there’s a strong appetite for free TV among Brits, with viewers almost twice as likely to try a new show on a free platform funded by ads than on a service with a monthly fee.”

Read more Future of TV content here.