15/03/2023 - JOE HALL
ITVX uses content licensing to target key audiences

ITVX, the new hybrid OTT service launched by ITV in December 2022, is the latest example of a UK broadcaster adapting its online offerings to changing UK viewing habits. Ampere’s latest wave of consumer data shows that in Q1 2023 self-reported time spent watching video-on-demand content was 19% greater than that spent watching linear TV in the UK. Indeed, since Q1 2020, VoD viewing hours have grown by 48% whereas linear has fallen by 24%.

ITV, in replacing the former ITV Hub with ITVX, is not alone among UK broadcasters in revamping its digital strategy: Channel 4 is rebranding its digital and linear content offerings under a single brand identity, while the BBC has reached a deal with UK regulator Ofcom to allow more archived titles to be available on BBC iPlayer.

The early numbers for ITVX have been promising, with the first month’s figures seeing a 29% year-on-year increase in viewing (65% if viewers of the FIFA World Cup are accounted for), perhaps helped by its digital-first exclusive window for new content and a large marketing campaign. With ITVX aiming to double ITV’s digital revenue by 2026, the big challenge in ITV’s new strategy will be moving its predominantly older linear viewers onto the digital platform: Over 52% of consumers who have watched an ITV channel in the past month are aged 45-64.

This has been partly addressed through a content reshuffle, with almost 4000 hours of new content added on top of the existing ITV Hub catalogue since launch. Much of the new ITVX content is from the genres most favoured by UK consumers aged 45-64, including Crime & Thriller, Sci-Fi & Fantasy and Action & Adventure. These genres have seen some of the biggest boosts in content hours with 1500 hours added to the catalogue between them. Many have come from licensing deals made with key studios such as Paramount Global, including True Crime content from CBS Reality, and Warner Bros. Discovery, bringing in a wave of fresh content to the platform.

But ITVX must also appeal to younger consumers. A partnership with Glasgow-based distributor Anime Inc. has seen the platform add over 200 hours of Anime, a genre previously with little presence on ITV Hub. Anime is growing in popularity in the UK, with 27% of consumers aged 18-24 citing it as a genre they enjoy, compared to 18% of the total UK sample.

ITVX’s hybrid model combines a free ad-funded service (AVoD) with a premium subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) tier. With the BritBox catalogue and content from French company Studio Canal available on this premium tier, ITVX is committing to a hybrid multi-platform future using not just its own commissions but a range of third-party licensing deals and partnerships to help it appeal to UK audiences who increasingly look online for their video content.

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