INSIGHT TV: The path to Ultra HD success
When INSIGHT TV made its entrance in the Ultra HD world in October 2015, it was one of the very first 24/7 channels in the world to broadcast in that new format. We caught up with Graeme Stanley, Chief Commercial Officer at INSIGHT TV, to understand the company’s path of evolution since then.
How has INSIGHT TV evolved since its launch in 2015?
As pioneers in the field, launching our Ultra HD channel back in 2015 came with a few challenges: our content library was not very rich, and we were producing content in a format that was still in a developing stage.
Since then, those two elements have changed. We have worked hard on developing and expanding our content library (which is wholly-owned by us) so we could offer a stronger consumer experience. In parallel, the interest in Ultra HD has truly picked up, especially since 2017. The end result is that we were able to considerably widen our distribution: in less than three years, we went from serving four TV platforms to 25 today, and from one distribution feed in Europe to seven feeds in various parts of the world.
As a team of 35 people, this acceleration left us rather breathless! And now it’s only set to grow: we have recently made our entrance in South Korea, and we have further expansion plans in other parts of Asia. We also plan to expand in Eastern Europe by the end of the summer.
What has been key to drive the development of Ultra HD?
It has been fascinating to see how the evolution of UHD TV sales started to flow into network investments – be it TV platforms or cable operators – so they could upgrade their facilities and deploy set-top-boxes for UHD delivery to the home. Because such a roll-out is costly and time-consuming, the usual trend is that Ultra HD is first being provided as a premium service, with popular sports or Hollywood content, to drive uptake of set-top-boxes. At the moment it’s mostly driven by sports, especially the World Cup.
One common challenge for broadcasters is the sourcing of 4K content after major events like the World Cup. Is that where INSIGHT TV comes in?
Exactly! Now that the games are over, the TV platforms will have to fill in a gap with Ultra HD content that matches the bill for their premium offer. Our 4K content fits the bill because our channel delivers 200 hours of fresh content every year. It features adventure, action, entertainment and lifestyle content that appeals to 20-34 year-old viewers, which is typically the demographic that tends to buy latest technologies like Ultra HD.
Being first-comers in the Ultra HD world was a real benefit, because it gave us a head-start for the production of high-quality, entertaining content - which is what broadcasters are looking for now.
What are the challenges tied to producing your own content?
The key challenge for us was the lack of brand awareness: when we started, no one knew our brand or our content, because it was not on any major broadcast network.
Our strategy was to bet on top-quality content that would grab the TV platforms attention. When I talk about quality, it is two-fold. First, we have been very rigorous in our production and broadcast process to maintain crystal clear picture quality, from the production shoot through to the output of the channel: cameras, post-production, and satellite distribution into the homes. Second, we have worked with producers who serve major broadcasters and have content production formats and values which are as good as anything you would see on BBC or ITV or any other TV platform.
Because of that, the general feedback from TV platforms is that our content is of premium quality, highly-entertaining, and simply outstanding. We now work with global partners such as Monster Energy and CJ E&M from Korea to help us expand the amount, depth and quality of programming.
You have now ‘’upgraded’’ your channel to 4K HDR (High Dynamic Range). What led you to that decision?
As we were first-comers with our Ultra HD channel, driving TV innovations has been in our DNA since Day 1. When HDR came along, it was pretty natural for us to be one of the first channels to broadcast in that new format. HDR provides a dramatic improvement in terms of viewing experience, and TV platforms have been asking for it, because it has become connected to Ultra HD in consumers’ mind - even though they don’t always fully understand the difference.
We are very proud to offer content that brings an even more life-like experience than before – today almost our entire production cycle includes HDR.
Once you have content, the next step is distribution. Was satellite an obvious choice for you?
Because we are a global company, it was indeed a simple choice to make! When you are trying to distribute a service across Europe, Asia and North America, you need a footprint that can immediately serve all your customers – and also provide for fast business expansion.
The great thing about working with SES is that, not only could they provide the global, fast-to-market distribution services we needed via their satellites, but they also fully understood our ambition when we started. To meet the needs of our ambition, SES was able to go beyond satellite capacity by working together with its subsidiary MX1, to deliver a complete end-to-end solution. With this solution, we can simply rely on SES for satellite distribution, and on MX1 for the playout and delivery on both linear and SVOD platforms.
Thanks to satellite, we were very quick to serve our original first customers (Vodafone in Spain and Portugal, Swisscom in Switzerland, Sky in the UK), and then expand our distribution globally.