Broadcasters spend a lot of time promoting their programmes on television but appear to put comparatively little effort into driving viewing online. The assumption seems to be that programmes are online to be viewed on demand, but how do you drive demand for online video? One suggestion is through more pro-active promotion.

Tim Bleasdale, is the creative director at Ostmodern, an agency that was worked with broadcasters like ITV and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.

He suggests that compared to the ways that broadcasters approach linear television, current recommendation engines, based on viewing behaviour and user ratings, are “archaic”.

“Traditionally, broadcast television, with its linear approach to scheduling and continuity, answered the question of what to watch when a viewer turned on their television,” he explains.

The channel brand, schedule, interstitial promotions, traditional marketing and media coverage all served to let us know about programmes we might want to watch and when they would be on.

“Times have changed, and as more people shift to video on demand to find new content that’s specific to their interests, reconsidering how, where, and when content is discovered has become one of the most essential parts of the design process for any video-on-demand product.”

“Different players are approaching content discovery in different ways,” he continued, “but they’re all looking to re-capture some of the magic of traditional broadcast TV that has been lost in the chase for immediacy and convenience in the on-demand world.”

“There is often a tendency to focus on technology solutions, when in reality it’s about connecting users with video content.”

One of his suggestions is to make more use of mobile engagement, for instance through push notifications.

“Using push notifications in this way lets the video-on-demand service talk directly to the user, thereby encouraging them to discover new programming and build a positive relationship between viewer and product.”

“Mobile technology like push notifications has a more important role to play than recommendation engines,” he concludes.

It certainly seems that broadcasters and online video service providers could be more pro-active in promoting programmes to their potential audiences. They appear to be pre-occupied with persuading people to log on to their services but most do not even offer a simple email alert about programmes that are coming up.

Netflix pioneered the concept of the queue of things to watch. Most broadcasters have nothing like this.

Instead, it seems we are still expected to scan schedules and browse through long lists to discover something we want to watch.

Personalisation and notification needs to be handled sensitively but the art of recommendation requires a little more thinking about programme promotion, rather than relying on an algorithmic engine to suggest what to watch.