ITV (LSE: ITV) and Channel 4 shows such as Coronation Street and The Inbetweeners will soon be available to watch via Sony’s PlayStation 3 games consoles for the first time, in another sign of the convergence between traditional media and the internet.
The ITV Player and Channel 4′s 4oD service are expected this week to launch the first commercial TV video content that can be watched via the PS3, available to users who have broadband access. The broadcasters are following in the footsteps of the BBC’s iPlayer, which launched on the PS3 console last year.
For ITV the distribution deal marks a shift in strategy, after the previous management regime under Michael Grade was reluctant to offer ITV shows online via other companies’ products and services.
ITV rejected deals with YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) and Hulu, the US on-demand service that has been looking at a UK launch, and until now it had made its catch-up TV service available only on Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED), BT (NYSE: BT) Vision and, soon, Freesat.
ITV.com recently reported a fall in views of its video content year-on-year and the chief executive, Adam Crozier, has admitted that the service is nowhere near “punching its weight”. He has identified a digital strategy as crucial to delivery of the broadcaster’s turnaround plan.
Robin Pembroke, managing director at ITV.com, said the PS3 deal marked an “acceleration of our distribution strategy”, adding that he also expected to see shows such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale becoming available on internet-enabled TV sets, tablet computers such as the iPad and other gaming consoles. “As awareness of ITV Player grows, so will consumption of ITV’s content on demand,” Pembroke predicted.
Sony (NYSE: SNE) estimates that there are about 4m PS3 consoles in the UK and that about 80% of owners are connected to its broadband-enabled service that allows access to catch-up TV and other on-demand content from the likes of LoveFilm.
Alan Duncan, the marketing director for PlayStation in the UK, said ITV and Channel 4 could expect an incremental increase in traffic of about 10% from users watching shows via their games consoles.
He said the estimate came from monitoring traffic for about 20 other similar on-demand services already available via PS3 consoles across Europe, and the iPlayer in the UK.
The expansion into offering mainstream TV content – and the recent launch of the family-friendly motion sensor device Move – marks the latest step in PlayStation’s mission to break beyond the niche, albeit lucrative, market for gamers. “It is about changing people’s attitudes to the PS3 as a platform to view it as a much broader entertainment device,” Duncan said.
Sarah Rose, director of commercial business development at Channel 4, said this was the first time the broadcaster had felt that a games console maker was ready to be a partner. “They are much bigger now and moving into the entertainment space, plus it sits well with our 16 to 34-year-old audience strengths,” Rose said.
She played down concerns that the PS3 deal might cannibalise traffic from 4oD, which is already available on Channel4.com. “Are we taking youth away from our own platform? I don’t think we are. The audience are moving around and so are we.”
Rose said Channel 4 was “not saying no” to a tie-up with Microsoft’s Xbox, which only carries TV shows from BSkyB’s SkyPlayer on its subscription package. But she said Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) was “not coming to our door” actively looking for deals with other TV companies. And the other main games console player, Nintendo Wii, which only has the BBC iPlayer, is unlikely to be a partner any time soon because it does not have the facility to carry advertising, she said.
Duncan said Sony would promote the availability of ITV and Channel 4 content to PS3 owners through email marketing, PlayStation blogs and directly on the console itself.
In the new year Sony will also launch a TV advertising campaign and a TV sponsorship deal to push its PS3 media entertainment services to a wider audience. “There is a compelling story to tell about the PS3 that goes far beyond gaming,” Duncan said.
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.