Content is on the move!
We can get it anywhere at any time. Moving content is a whole new game and the war to win the viewers hearts is on. Jan Scherman from Aftonbladet TV believes that experimenting, taking risks and following the users closely is the way to go.
I was there when television had its breakthrough in Sweden. The days of black and white. One, just one TV channel. Broadcasts starting at 6PM and ending 11PM. Yes, such a time actually existed even if it was a long time ago. This was the 1950s.
I watched Sweden winning a silver medal in the Football World Cup. On TV. It was almost surreal. If my parents, who proudly put the TV mahogany cabinet in the living room, had been alive they would have found the TV of our time even more surreal.
At the time there were two TV channels. Along came color, even if certain features in the news program Aktuellt were black and white for a long time. Advertising was prohibited. Not until the 1980s did the satellites and the satellite dishes arrive. The political opposition was massive. But the TV viewers wanted to watch more and anyone who bought a really big dish could choose from more than 20 channels.
Focusing on Sweden it was the industrialist Jan Stenbeck who crushed the Swedish TV monopoly. He started TV3 and bought the Hockey World Cup. Sweden, that had enjoyed peace for 200 years, experienced a state of war, a real TV war. The pros and cons of Stenbeck split the nation into two camps. But the outcome was a given. The consumers, those watching had had their appetite for more TV whetted. New TV. So history moved on to the next breakthrough: TV4. Terrestrial, commercially financed, TV reaching everyone.
I left SVT (Swedish public service TV) for TV4 and threw myself out into a changing world. After a couple of years TV4 had become Sweden’s largest TV channel. And there were many channels. With a new broadcasting technique from analog to digital the content just exploded. Distributors such as Boxer, Comhem, Viasat, Canal Digital and Telia could eventually offer hundreds of channels. The number 500 was reached in beginning of the 2000s.
Greater challanges than ever
Why am I telling you all this? What has history to do with the present? Well, because if someone thinks that much has happened and that there has been a big drama this is nothing compared to what is going on today. Explosion and revolution and all the catsup coming out of the bottle in one go. Any expression meaning quick and dramatic change is correct to use for what is going on now. And the challenges for the media houses are greater than ever. Which is the best way forward? When digitalization came and the old analog network was dismantled, everybody knew that it would mean a sharp increase in the number of linear channels. That is in fact what happened. All TV houses increased their output and international operators were given space in the Nordic market. Today it is more difficult. It is also increasingly the wishes and needs of the consumers that decide the direction in a totally new fashion.
Aftonbladet has laid down its strategy. It rests on a number of pillars:
- Aftonbladet as the primary news source with lots of live broadcasting. We are there as it happens and where it happens!
- Programs that keep stories going and in-depth coverage. For example we produce Aftonbladet Morgon (Aftonbladet Morning), Brottscentralen (Crime Center) and Alla Pratar Väder (Evereybody is Talking About the Weather). We do Party leaders’ Debates and extensive live coverage of major events.
- Stand-alone programs with a clear focus on younger people that we have put under the umberella brand Boom. Here you find titles such as Relationsjuryn (The Relations Jury), Älskade unge (Darling Kid) or 53 Snabba (53 quick ones). Here are the new, young and entertaining presenters.
- Seasonal programs, often with a clear interest focus: Health, exercise, food, fashion, travel and everything that catches different popular subjects. The titles of the programs change with the seasons of the year.
- Viral material, e.g. lists and clips from all over the world.
- Developing the business model. How much advertising? Where and when? And how do we build more conceptual solutions when it comes to the financing of new features? The program Sommargrillen (Summer Barbecue) has obvious sponsors and so has Hårdträning (Tough Training).
- More analysis. And still more. We will be better than linear TV in giving the advertisers facts about our viewers.
- Be there on all platforms. TV everywhere and all of the time and particulary when the viewers want it; on the mobile, the iPad and the computer.
- Distribute our content to more platforms than just Aftonbladet. Quite a lot of Aftonbladet TV is on Spotify, some one Youtube. We want to be everywhere.
- Make our platforms better so that those who click and watch can move without friction on our surfaces and easily find what they are looking for.
When I came to Aftonbladet in January 2014 I brought a large baggage of experience from the world of TV. I had strong views about what Aftonbladet should be doing. We were to be an own division and do more long programs; half an hour or anhour. We were to start a new linear TV channel. After intense work we got a broadcasting license for the digital terrestrial net.
But we changed our minds and started again. Once, a couple of times. All of a sudden I had entered a world where the audience came in fast and watched even faster. Short clips and bang on to the most important straight away. That’s how the mobile, the iPad and the computer work.
We stopped bothering with the TV channel and chiseled out another strategy. There was no schedule. There were shorter programs, more programs on more topics, more changes of programs, integration with social media, close cooperation with the ads sales, more conceptual deals, more distribution etc. And we now work in cooperation with the news desk. Close to each other. Away with the silo thinking!
In the old days when there was black and white, and some color, we talked about campfires. Almost four million people were watching when the Swedish hockey team played against the Soviet Union in the Hockey World Cup. Today there are fires every here and there: On Aftonbladet TV, on YouTube, Twitter or Snapchat. And the TV stories are being shared left and right. That’s how the new campfires are formed.
In earlier times news was only broadcasted at fixed hours. We are now broadcasting live all the time. We can count over 1,000 live broadcasts a year. Several a day. And we go live immediately. It took us a minute to put out the news about the Boston bombing in April 2013. The broadcast then went on for 20 hours. The terror bombing in Paris in January 2015; the same swiftness followed by in-depth coverage. Regardless as to whether it is about a hunt for submarines in Sweden or dramatic events abroad, Aftonbladet TV is almost always first.
We are constantly renewing the program output. In the autumn of 2014 Aftonbladet TV started a live morning talk show, several hours long. In a short time it has altered our morning routines and we can use the reporting in the news flow during the whole day. Every day Aftonbladet Morgon draws an average of 450,000 video starts.
Aftonbladet is growing. We have increased the daily average of video starts by close to 30 per cent. We have increased our revenues by almost as much.
Well, yes, there are lots of figures. In August 2015, according to Orvesto Internet, Aftonbladet had on average 879,000 viewers per day. That means we are the sixth largest TV channel in Sweden!
Feeling, will, passion and engagement are ever more important parts of the future. To dare, to take risks is part of the way to success. A way of working that eventually helps you discover the right way.
I am sure we will have more remakes and changes of strategy. Doing things wrong, adjusting the course, getting on the right track.
Nowadays I tend to say that it is not enough to say “content is king”. The one who knows the most about the viewers hasa clear advantage. It is important to look around you and to listen, not just looking at the reports from Google analytics. Watch what people do when they are watching the big TV screen; they are watching their mobile at the same time. What are people doing on the bus, on the tube, in the waiting room at the dentist and even in the Emergency Room? They are all fiddling with their mobiles. The mobile is our most important TV set. Far from that old mahogany piece in the living room.
For us, all these everyday observations serve as guidance. Aftonbladet TV is swiftness when it happens, where it happens. In-depth is us. Entertainment is us. And not least, we are an ever more important part of the mind-boggling diversity that Aftonbladet has represented for so long.