ITV Adding VOD To Virgin Cable And Website; Something Of A Tipping Point

It’s taken a while, but ITV (LSE: ITV) is now firmly getting its video-on-demand mojo on. After getting carriage on BT (NYSE: BT) Vision recently, it’s now opening up its programming on to Virgin Media’s built-in VOD platform, joining the BBC (via iPlayer), Channel 4, Bravo and other channels. It’s a four-year deal that sees ITV getting a fixed share of revenue.

ITV had long languished from an innovation standpoint but new blood at the online director level and the way paved by iPlayer’s success has prompted it to chase the extra eyeballs and advertising offered by time shifting. Virgin’s VOD service gets 3.5 million monthly views and BBC’s Virgin iPlayer implementation has been very successful, scoring 61 million views between its summer ’08 launch and early December. Virgin started trialling pre- and post-content video ads in the service in October – a further enticement for an ITV fretting about diminishing advertising revenue. No details yet on ads.

Not only is ITV clearly now pulling its socks up; this is also something of a cultural tipping point. In the days when we had only four main TV channels, watercooler-moment conversations like “Did you see Coronation Street last night?” were more prevalent. Like the BBC, ITV has been responsible for much of the programming that has brought the nation together. The mutation of “appointment-to-view TV” in to “I’ll-watch-when-I-like” TV loosens these mass moments further (though ITV would say it will actually increase the audience for its shows).

Catch-up: Over 40 hours of shows per week from ITV1, 2, 3 and 4 will be added and remain available for the obligatory seven days after transmission for free; the initiative will operate under the “ITV Player” moniker, which ITV used to rechristen its catch-up service recently.
Long tail: ITV will also add over 500 hours of shows from its archive to Virgin’s £7-a-month “TV Choice” VOD extra, which is free to XL subscribers.
Web: The agreement extends to desktop VOD, too, but details are still sketchy. It’s likely to see’s Silverlight-based ITV Player added to – but, again, the archive content will be available only to TV Choice/XL subscribers so some kind of password authentication will be necessary.