C21Media SCHEDULE WATCH CHANNEL PROFILE: UK AVoD preschool service Ketchup TV is gathering speed with a major distribution roll-out and a content growth spurt this autumn. Gün Akyuz reports.


SCHEDULE WATCH CHANNEL PROFILE: UK AVoD preschool service Ketchup TV is gathering speed with a major distribution roll-out and a content growth spurt this autumn. Gün Akyuz reports.

Paul Coster


Following the roll-out of UK AVoD service Ketchup on digital platform YouView earlier this month, the preschool service has another launch up its sleeve.

Two-year old Ketchup, which offers a mix of well-known preschool brands aimed at two- to six-year-olds, is already an established presence on the Freeview and Freesat platforms in the UK. It is now revamping its presence on Samsung smart TVs with a new app, while apps for Android and iOS handheld devices are also rolling out this month. The service should also be on Android TV by the end of the year, says Paul Coster, CEO of Ketchup parent VOD 365.

Launching on YouView is a major milestone for Ketchup, Coster says. Not only does it make the preschool service available to the platform’s three million connected customers – translating into a further 300,000 unique viewers – but YouView’s next-gen TV service means all subscriber devices are internet connected, “so take-up and usage of those devices is very, very high and a lot easier for us to measure.”

It doesn’t stop there. VOD 365 is looking to expand Ketchup’s presence on other distribution platforms, including LG sets and pay cabsat operators Virgin and Sky.

Alongside that comes the move to offer customers an-ad free option for a small fee. “Parents should be given choice, and we’re discussing the Spotify approach,” says Coster.

But the exec is clear that Ketchup remains “first and foremost” a free-to-air, ad-funded VoD proposition. When it launched on Freeview in July 2016, Coster told C21: “The free model still presents, in our opinion, a huge opportunity in the television market. There’s a big TV market that’s still navigating the television EPG environment.”

Miffy has been acquired via a deal with Studio 100

Despite seismic upheavals in the UK’s audiovisual sector, Coster stands by that position today. “AVoD still has a big future,” he says. “Remember, young people, millennials don’t like paying for things. Ketchup is two years old and now a trusted brand. People may want to convert to SVoD over time [hence the Spotify approach], but many SVoD players just launch expecting people to pay from the start.”

Ketchup is VOD 365’s leading channel. The group’s family also includes factual channel Planet Knowledge and Sports Channel Network (SCN), both of which will be joining YouView next month. Additionally, VOD 365 has lined up “petrol heads” channel Gas Station for the end of the year.

The latest news is that an older sibling for Ketchup is now being planned. Currently dubbed Project Yaas!, it is expected to launch in the first half of 2019. “We’re already getting a lot of questions around that next generation of kids (6-11s) from media partners for brand advertisers, and we’re building a strategy for the new kids’ channel,” explains Coster. A music channel and a fashion and lifestyle proposition featuring influencers and tutorials are also being explored, as is spinning the eSports segment on SCN into a separate channel.

This all means that, in terms of marketing and distribution, VOD 365 can sell a package of channels to media-buying agencies and advertisers, says Coster. “It has become quite serious in terms of a channel outlet that is generating revenue, so we’re being taken more seriously,” he notes. An interesting yardstick is that Ketchup’s Q4 2018 advertising space has completely sold out for the first time.

As part of its dynamic advertising approach, VOD 365 is also exploring e-commerce for Ketchup and other channels, where its sports and eSports content, for instance, could sell tickets linked to events being programmed, as well as products.

Something that VOD 365 has developed and is able to deliver on YouView that others don’t is dynamic advertising, says Coster. “Launching on YouView is exciting because, excluding ITV’s programmatic advertising, we’re the only AVoD service on there delivering dynamic advertising.”

One example has seen Ketchup run an ad campaign for Cry Babies Magic Tears dolls, setting the products within a proper story rather than going with the usual pre-rolled ad, something that also gives ads and brands a more permanent presence as a Ketchup ‘splat’ on the main page.

Vic the Viking, another Studio 100 title

Another, featuring the Sylvanian Families IP, is running on Ketchup exclusively in Q4. “We’ve taken a different approach with media partners to engage with audiences, and no one else is doing this,” says Coster.

VOD 365 is now working in partnership with Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) platform to come up with joined-up reporting tools for ad-supported services in broadcast and on digital, with Ketchup lined up as possible case study. “It gets them onto broadcast platforms delivering advertising, which is quite a big thing for them,” observes Coster.

Current programming, acquisitions

Ketchup is currently expanding its preschool content line-up and will be on the lookout for a range of shows at Mipcom in Cannes next week.

Its YouView launch has coincided with a batch of fresh preschool content, including Miffy, Maya the Bee and Vic the Viking, in a new deal with Germany media company Studio 100 and its kids’ subsidiary M4E. Another agreement, with Entertainment One (eOne), means Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom is now part of the mix.

Ketchup also has deals with DHX, for properties like Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam, plus DreamWorks and Mattel. Coster says he wants more educational preschool shows along the lines of DHX’s Monster Maths and Super Why for the Ketchup line-up.

Alongside its established programme brands from the broadcast world, Ketchup’s popularity also stems from digital brands like hit YouTube nursery rhymes show Little Baby Bum and Om Nom, which Coster says perform very well.

Moreover, information on user behaviour from services like YouView means decision-making around what shows to choose can be more data-led from now on, which could result in more alternative programming sources, not just the traditional broadcast brands, says Coster.

Digital brands like Om Nom perform well for Ketchup

Ketchup is also revisiting the unintended added value of some of its previous shows. HeMan, for instance, was also being watched by adults on Ketchup. “We removed it when we were revamping the line-up and were emailed by a number of adults asking when it would be back. They’re watching with their kids. It’s the nostalgia factor,” says the exec.

This discovery has triggered Ketchup’s next programming move, which is the launch of a Ketchup Classics section featuring retro shows. Coster says he’ll be on the lookout for more such titles at Mipcom.

The exec wants quality over volume, stressing that shows must offer something with a point of difference. “We’re not a VoD warehouse but we need a range of shows to attract people. We’re working to get that balance right.” Ketchup looks for AVoD rights for a minimum of one year, but ideally three. A challenge in this area, notes the exec, is the unnecessary complexity around different rights – AVoD and SVoD and contracts – for same platform.

Alongside its acquired slate, Ketchup is now starting to work on shortform commissioning in the animation area, with the first results of this likely to appear in Q1 2019. It’s a move that move ties in with the group’s ambitions to eventually take Ketchup and its siblings international.

Gün Akyuz

Research editor, C21Media