Cord-cutters wooed by Saorview’s new media campaign

Ad for ‘no bills’ television platform implores pay-TV customers to ‘free the TV’

Saorview, the terrestrial television platform operated by RTÉ subsidiary 2rn, has given itself a brand refresh in a bid to attract users tempted to "cut the cord" on pay-TV.

Its new advertising line "free the TV" is designed to distance Saorview from its association with the 2012 switchover from analogue to digital, according to RTÉ's chief technology officer Richard Waghorn.

“We’ve been working on a complete overhaul of the brand and a new positioning,” he says.

The current television ad campaign, which launched on RTÉ just before Christmas, was conceived and created by the design consultancy Aad and includes a 60-second animation by Cannes Grand Prix winner Johnny Kelly.

The voiceover hails Saorview as “the TV you want, your way, no monthly contract, no bills”, before inviting them to “join the revolution, make the change, free the TV”.

Once a user has a Saorview-enabled television or a Saorview box, the service has no cost. “The line ‘free the TV’ is playing to our strengths. We’re free and we’re TV,” says Waghorn. While Saorview does not have the full range of channels, “actually not everybody wants that”, he says.

Saorview is, by one measure, Ireland's largest TV platform, with 676,000 homes connecting to television this way, up from 607,000 a year earlier, according to the latest Nielsen figures.

Whole story

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Most households with Saorview also have a subscription to a pay-TV operator such as

Sky

or

Virgin Media

. Only 186,000 homes are Saorview-only, although this number is also on the rise, having increased by 22,000 over the past year.

Both Sky and Virgin Media are “struggling” for TV customers, according to Waghorn, and it is possible that “cord-cutting” and “cord-shaving” are contributory factors to Saorview’s gains.

In the US market, cord-cutting has been a distinct trend, with the phenomenon triggering profit warnings at traditional cable operators.

In each quarter, hundreds of thousands of pay-TV customers either ditch their subscriptions entirely and replace them with the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, or they downgrade to cheaper channel bundles (aka cord-shaving).

"One of the main things the research threw up is people want to take action but they want a reason to take action," says Scott Burnett, creative director at Aad.

A large part of the project was making sure people understood what Saorview offers. Saorview currently carries nine Irish channels: RTÉ One HD, RTÉ 2 HD, TV3, TG4, 3e, UTV Ireland, RTÉ News Now, RTÉ jr (until 7pm) and RTÉ One +1 (after 7pm).

However, many Saorview users also access British free-to-air channels via a satellite dish. Others may combine these channels with a low-cost Netflix subscription (and others still may use less official methods of accessing television content).

Saorview now talks about TV, rather than channels, says Burnett. The aim is to imply that the platform can be used in conjunction with other television options, but without also suggesting that a nine-channel service is limited.

The service may broaden to include more channels, says Waghorn. Adding more channels to the two operational Saorview multiplexes (bundles of channels compressed into a data stream) would result in lower regulated carriage fees per channel, as there would be more channels to share the total operating costs.

“There is some spare capacity across the two multiplexes and we’re having conversations with broadcasters about using it,” says Waghorn. “I’m hoping we will have some movement on that this year.”

He adds that other imminent developments, including a “drip-feeding” of new functionality features, will help “future-proof” Saorview.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics