There are many things about Ten that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense these days, but the most significant among them was the lack of a connected television catch-up TV service. Ten, as a network that sets its focus on younger viewers, was missing out on a core group of their viewers by not offering online access to their content. In an exciting move announced today by way of the Australian Financial Review, Channel Ten will be launching a catch-up TV service by the end of next month.

Ten have partnered with Sony to offer a catch-up TV service through through Sony’s Bravia TV’s and Bluray players. One would presume that the service will also be made available on Sony’s Playstation 3 consoles. Vincent Dempsey, Ten’s head of Digital Media, has stated that the service will offer the bulk of their domestic programs, as well as UK programs like The Graham Norton Show. Talks have commenced to bring US shows to the platform.

Is this the beginning of the end for Ten's broadcast tower?

While the connected TV service provides Ten with a number of opportunities, the most valuable is that this positions them firmly in the online space and primes them for the oncoming evolution in TV distribution that looms over the medium. The ABC have made massive gains on their audience through the distribution of their shows through iView, available through Sony-branded devices (as well as across other branded TV’s). In October last year, the ABC reported 5.3 million views of iView had taken place and one would assume that viewership through connected devices would have been a significant percentage of this viewership. With figures like that during the infancy of connected TV services, it is a clear sign that viewers are eager to engage on these platforms.

What is exciting about connected TV services is that they ‘feel’ like TV. With connected TV, the TV experience is being replicated in a fashion that still provides the content holders with control over their product and with a revenue model, but it also enables the viewer to actively engage with the content while exercising greater control over what and when they watch a program. Viewers have been shifting their viewing habits over the past ten years with many technologically savvy viewers engaging minimally with broadcast TV schedules and have now developed habits that use P2P programming as their core source of televisual programming. And consider some of the Gen Y television viewers who have now matured into adults who have grown up without broadcast TV as a dominant force in their TV consumption habits. While these viewers are certainly not yet the majority, they do represent a significant number of viewers. Viewers of whom can be re-engaged with via connected TV services like this (admittedly, getting these viewers to again engage with advertising during their programs is a challenge that needs to be overcome).

Channel 10's Vincent Dempsey - Here's a man who looks like he has watched some TV in his time.

One of the threats to Australian broadcasters is the potential threat that a dedicated connected television wields over the industry. If Apple launch their oft-discussed Apple Television and/or get serious about adding app functionality to their existing Apple TV product (combined with a similar push by Google), it will represent a massive change to the way that we consume services. While broadcast television will still factor into that, we’re set to see viewers adopting viewing habits and establishing paid subscriptions with a number of new players (re: Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, LoveFilm, etc). It makes sense now to ensure that established TV content media companies in Australia have a presence in the connected TV space now to not only build consumer recognition, but also to ‘iron-out’ any issues that exist in their service and business model prior to it being the main game in town. It’s quite easy to see Ten being ready to launch services ┬áimmediately within an Apple or Google eco-system having established a connected TV service already by way of Sony (and presumably soon Samsung, LG, etc).

What is promising about the Ten connected TV launch is that they appear serious about it. It’s Seriously Ten, if you will. From the AFR launch they are talking about making available their local programs, along with imports. It’s not difficult to assume that we’ll likely see Breakfast, The Circle, Ready Steady Cook, The Project, TAYG, Neighbours, news services, and much more on the service from launch. Rights pending, it may also be possible that we’ll see them offer older episodes of established series on the service as well. It’s programming that may have limited broadcast appeal, but in the niche-driven world of online media, there would certainly be a home for this type of content. Getting viewers to jump on board a series like Offspring would also be a much easier proposition if those unfamiliar with the series could start from the beginning.

Compare this with the Channel 7 catch-up TV service. While their web offering may provide some catch-up services, the Connected TV service has stripped back much of the content on offer. Connect to Plus7 on a Sony TV or PS3 and you’ll be able to watch episodes of the classic sitcom Ned & Stacey or SNL, but marquee Seven branded programs like Packed To The Rafters, Today Tonight, and Home & Away are curiously absent. It shows that they’re simply not serious about their connected TV service.

Already, the Channel Ten connected TV service looks promising. At Televised Revolution, we’ll be tracking the launch of the service and see whether it actually lives up to the promise.