Today’s viewers are far better equipped than in past decades. Many have PVRs and tend to watch programs later. They will skip adverts and many of the channel-branding messages that link the programs. This is another reason for the branding to start before the program ends — even before the final credits. A strap or crawl in the final minutes of the program is becoming more commonplace, as are lower thirds. Lower thirds, however, really need to be previewed to make sure that they do not interfere with the program. That can make this option more labor-intensive.
Cross-platform branding is also popular with most channels. Having a website available for viewers to watch other programs has distinct advantages, as there is no PVR to fast forward over the adverts and branding messages. Websites are also there to sell channel-branded and other third-party products, giving the broadcaster another branding opportunity.
Social media also plays a key role in channel branding. It allows users to create, share and exchange information and ideas. Many viewers comment about programs they are watching on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace using hash tags. These hash tags allow channels to access more branding opportunities, as well as deliver messages to both viewers and their social media contacts.
Today many TV channels are integrating social media into their programs, so to appear more live and interactive with their viewers (although many are computer-generated with basic moderation to remove unwanted messages). A modern NRCS can take feeds from news wires but can also handle social message feeds for the news program, website and back to the social media feeds.
Channel branding is here to stay, and it will continue to be a challenge for broadcasters who strive to achieve the best branding at the least cost. All TV channels realize that the better the channel branding, the better the bottom line. Now, the second screen also has to be incorporated into the channel-branding package, but automation has to play a critical part in channel branding, otherwise costs will rocket.
Branding is also about having good programs. Good branding cannot make up for bad programs; however, good branding can make a channel seem better than others showing similar programming. This is especially important for, say, music channels that have access to essentially similar music videos. Here branding can, and does, make a difference.
—Don Ash is managing partner and director of sales at PlayBox Technology.