How ITV and Candyspace are instilling content discovery into a catch-up service
For the last 10 years, ITV Hub (formally ITV Player) has been a catch-up service for all ITV content. Programmes traditionally came onto the Hub around an hour after their linear broadcast and remained on the platform for 30 days. This meant you might watch episode one of a show, miss the next few and then by the time you tried to catch up on what you missed five weeks later, episode two had already disappeared. In order for ITV to compete with the other video on demand (VOD) providers out there - the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and iPlayer where content is available for much longer, and most importantly, it’s bingeable – something had to change.
ITV’s strategic vision is to be a digitally led media & entertainment company that creates and brings our brilliant content to audiences wherever, whenever and however they choose. This really puts the emphasis on the transformation of ITV Hub, and ensuring that users can watch the content they want, when they want.
The first step in this transformation process (and bringing the vision to life) was actually making ITV Hub look like a modern VOD provider across all of our platforms (mobile apps, Smart TV apps and the web). We started with a straight reskin, from white to black, which immediately improved users’ perceptions of the Hub and ITV as a brand. Once this was complete, we set about redesigning all of the platforms to optimise the users’ journeys so that they would be able to find the content that they wanted more quickly and in a more logical way. The introduction of rails on the Hub was revolutionary for us as it allowed a greater breadth of content to be highlighted and in a much more appealing way.
In 2019, we experimented with the second part of this transformation to provide the all important content. Our first ‘series drop’ of a programme, Deep Water, put all six episodes of the series on the Hub immediately after the first episode was broadcast on linear TV. This proved successful and instantly showed us how important binge-watching has become to viewers. The follow up to this initiative came in 2020, when we had a trial of our windowing period - lengthening it from 30 days to 1 year after broadcast. This meant that the Hub was flooded with thousands of episodes of content that would previously have been lost to the archives, or sold to other VOD providers. We made sure to properly highlight this new wealth of content with on platform tagging to show a ‘Full Series’, as well as a broad cross-media marketing campaign.
With the platform itself now functioning as a content destination, with easy to use navigation and a bucket load of content, we were able to start optimising the journeys for users. The introduction of editorially-controlled rails meant for the first time ever on the Hub, we were able to allow our editors to create collections of content that would appeal to our users. Euro 96, The TOWIE Years, Fun in the Sun, Black History Month, the Best of 2020 - these are just some of the collections that have been pulled together to highlight the amazing content ITV has to offer, which may otherwise be lost among the homepage, or buried in category pages.
2021 has seen us continuing with our redesign project, further optimising the experience and the journeys for our users. The company vision has helped us to prioritise the work to be done to ensure we’re fulfilling our users needs, as well as those of the business. As part of this continuation, in February, we added over 250 hours of content to the Hub, with the entire box set of Love Island (every UK series). We made sure that the programme page was fit for purpose - rather than scrolling through over 300 episodes, we added a series tab feature to help users quickly navigate to where they wanted to get to. The programming team also added editorial rails to highlight this content (and quickly deeplink users to where they wanted to get to) as well as related content (companion shows, other countries’ versions and similar content) to keep users engaged and watching. Marketing also played a key part in highlighting this content and platform transformation for Love Island, with hero spots, push notifications, social media posts and newsletters, as well as app store optimisation all working together to tell a great story.
From the first step in this journey of transformation to present day, we’ve always been sure to put our users at the heart of what we are doing, as they are really the key to our vision. Our thoughts and decisions go through rigorous user testing, both qualitative and quantitative. We’ll speak to users directly (previously face to face, but now on Zoom), hold market research sessions, use remote insight tools as well as the likes of surveys and A/B testing to make sure that we’re getting it right. This practice helps us to deliver what the users want, and get it right the first time.
The results of the work we have been doing as part of this transformation are clear. Increases in our breadth of content, the duration it’s available on the Hub for and the user experience of the platforms have increased our monthly active users and consumption hours year on year. And with the transformation still ongoing, we can only hope to see even better results over the next few years.