Scale and depth of catalogue is what matters for online viewers

The PSBs are quietly reinventing their online players. What were once catch-up services are being refreshed as more rounded propositions as they broaden their horizons.

Viacom is bidding to reimagine My 5 by partnering with a raft of other services, not just in terms of volume of programming (some 1,500 hours over the next year) but also in breadth and quality.

BET is a well-established part of the Viacom cable network stable in the US and its shows will bring a distinctive flavour to the service, while C5’s solid history credentials will be given a boost with content from PBS America.

What started with a trial of 16 titles from A+E’s male-skewing Blaze last year is now a fully fledged strategy: to add significant scale that helps My 5 better fight its corner in an increasingly competitive VoD market.

This thinking is not dissimilar to what’s going on at Horseferry Road, where All 4 recently struck an agreement to host 900 hours of content from Vice.

For Vice, the deal will help deliver eyeballs, thanks to a platform with many millions of registered viewers and significant digital marketing expertise.

For C4, the agreement satisfies two key pillars of its strategy: super-serving younger viewers with edgy shows that speak to its remit and supercharging its digital products.

All 4 is due a shot in the arm in terms of investment in the platform itself, and C4 has indicated that it is keen to add more third-party programming in the near future.

In some ways, Walter Presents works in a similar way for C4, albeit the broadcaster is an investor in the brand. By offering up high-quality, foreign-language drama, Walter Presents enhances All 4’s reputation and delivers valuable ABC1 viewers, in the same way that Vice will be expected to deliver youngsters.

”No project with multiple stakeholders is ever easy to co-ordinate. But overcoming these problems should not feel like an insurmountable challenge”

The PSBs are talking more than ever about partnerships, and C4 and C5 have moved quickly to deliver smart additions to their digital services.

The big question is whether they can work together with the likes of the BBC and ITV to establish a more transformative digital proposition in the shape of a shared streaming service.

No project with multiple stakeholders is ever easy to co-ordinate, and it may get confusing if a paid-for joint venture offering archive has to sit alongside a suite of free VoD players offering short-term catch-up. But overcoming these problems should not feel like an insurmountable challenge.

The PSBs are alive to the changes in viewing habits and know that scale and depth of catalogue is vital when it comes to the digital experience.

Achieving that by working together feels like a top priority.

Chris curtis

Chris Curtis is the editor of Broadcast