For the first time, on this year’s The X Factor, viewers voted via an app on their iPhones, iPads and iPhone Touches. 1.5 million people downloaded The X Factor app and many of these bought packs of votes for either 69p or £1.99 using iTunes payment. And people came back for more – we saw a really high re-purchase rate, which told us that people liked this way of interacting and they are happy to pay for the entertainment.
Options for the TV industry have been, until recently, limited to premium-rate phone lines or SMS. Viewers like to support their favourite contestant and some people will pick up their phones and dial the number. But now, we have put an interactive app in the hands of people as they watch the show. Viewers rate contestants and express their views throughout the show and when it comes to the crunch, they are happy to spend a bit of money to back the people they believe in.
We think this opens up a new opportunity for the TV industry and can create new revenue for a range of TV genres – talent shows, quizzes, competitions, reality voting shows, sports and music. As micro-billing gets easier – and Google Play’s roll out of Direct Carrier Billing will really help here – people are happy to pay small amounts to be entertained.
One area in which we are investing is the development of quiz shows where the home audience pays to play with the chance of winning a prize – all from the comfort of your sofa.
But, as this market develops we need to take care. Taking payment for TV interaction means that the relationship has moved from broadcaster and viewer to retailer and consumer. Investment in security, resilience and regulatory compliance is fundamental and not something that your creative, design-led, UI-centric app developer is interested in. So, we developed the Tectonic Platform to enable app developers can focus on what they are good at. By using the Tectonic API, the app developer plugs into the platform, their app automatically scales to TV audience size and security and regulatory compliance is taken care of.
Analysis – What would help?
In my opinion, two things:
Firstly, more price points from Apple, 69p is the minimum, what about 25p or 50p?
Secondly, more frictionless billing mechanisms across devices and networks – why can’t a WiFi tablet user simply add a charge to their broadband bill?
For now, 1.5 million of The X Factor audience is a good start.
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