Embracing the Supernatural . . . on the ABC?

Something strange has happened to the ABC recently. Usually the domain of children’s entertainment and documentaries for the older generations, it has recently made a bid for the highly sought in-between. And here’s the strange part, against the other networks . . . it could easily win.


I am being a bit harsh towards the ABC. There is some fantastic programming which manages to reach a wide range of demographics. Apart from their children’s programming and documentaries, this channel features credible news coverage, incredible Australian dramas and comedies, mini-series such as Paper Giants which inhabit water cooler conversations around the nation and many popular international shows including Doctor Who.

But they very rarely delve into anything commercial, and when they do it is often a report during the news. Not anymore!

The ABC made a bid and won the free-to-air distribution rights for the Twilight franchise. Bankrolling over $3 billion in box-office revenue, this vampire inspired story was a mammoth contender at the theatres after record-breaking book sales across the US. This makes it pretty hot property for free-to-air broadcast rights capturing all those people who are interested in what all the fuss is about or were too stingy to spend the $20 and see it in the cinema.

However, despite the odds the ABC would have faced from commercial networks, it managed to secure the rights to air on television and follow-up on the ABC iview catch-up service.

This is quite clearly an attempt to grab the younger audience’s attention which is currently lacking from their viewership. And they should be applauded for making such a bold (and probably very expensive) move. They saw a gap in their customers, profiled them and then took action to change their service so that it held greater appeal. It is the model every organisation should take!

But here is the crazy thing. Most people will label this as a last-ditch effort to buy the affections of this new demographic. However, if carried out consistently it could pull a lot of audience members away from the commercial channels. Why? Because of the one thing ABC doesn’t have . . . advertisements.

Ads are annoying. There is no point denying that. Even as a marketer, I find most ads boring. And they are even more annoying when you are trying to watch a movie. Being interrupted by ads is exactly the catalyst which is drawing people towards recording their favourite shows and watching them at a later date where they can fast-forward through the interruptions.

Well, the ABC doesn’t have any to start with. This means that watching shows on the ABC removes that need to delay gratification watching your favourite movie or television show until a point when you can avoid the ads. You can watch it right now as though you already own the DVD.

All networks are competing for viewership, the commercial networks to justify to their advertisers and the ABC to secure its funding. With this clever move the ABC might have just uncovered the one key to success against commercial networks with much higher spending opportunities.

I guess it comes back to one important lesson. No matter how much money you have, the customer still needs to come first. And if the customer can get their immediate fill from an ad-less network, then those commercial networks relying on their viewership may have to rethink the importance they place on the audience-experience!