I doubt that the big wedding of the year coming up in April (I’m talking Pattison/Weedon here) sent out any invitations to X +1 on them. The ‘+ 1’ designation can’t help but sound off-hand. But what might sound a bit rude when referring to a human being sounds like a great offer to TV viewers.
Plus 1 channels are a very valuable tool in the evolving TV world, whether you’re a viewer or a broadcaster, offering their own particular form of time-shifting and control. They recognise real viewer behaviour and, when added to the DTR, narrative repeats and on-demand TV, are helping people watch more of the TV they love.
The DTR is brilliant if you’re going to be out, or if two programmes clash, but you do have to plan ahead. On-demand catch-up services are also very popular and cater for people who get a recommendation after the broadcast, either from friends or maybe a newspaper review. They are also essential if you have no DTR (more than half the UK doesn’t) or you’ve messed up the recording.
Plus 1 channels do something different. Middle-aged posh people like me might trawl the Radio Times and pop programmes on the recorder but that’s not what most people do. They have their appointment to view programmes that form the basis of their TV routines, but otherwise they switch on the telly and start flicking through channels or the EPG to see what they fancy. Serendipity is a wonderful thing that can cause viewers to stumble into terrific programmes that might not have caught their eye from a listing. We also know that watching live is the default for the majority of viewers – 93% of TV is watched live – and is preferred for many reasons, of which social media chat is just the latest addition.
Plus 1 channels capitalise on both these behaviours and offer an immediate solution to when you bump into a great programme halfway through but wish you could watch from the start. Respondents in our recent Tellyporting study told us that they valued on-demand TV for catch-up but ideally they don’t want to wait a whole day. Plus 1 channels (and a few +2 channels) solve this. In the Alps household we also depend on +1 channels for watching Channel 4 news (7pm is just too early for me) and for managing all the recording we want to do. There are frequently 3 or 4 brilliant programmes on at the same time but our Sky+ box can only record 2 things at the same time. Along come the +1s to solve that too.
Overall, +1 channels account for about 5% of linear TV viewing but a higher percentage for those specific channels that have them. Channel 4+1 accounts for 11% of the Channel 4 total and the numbers are even higher for smaller channels; Dave ja vu delivers 25% and Living+1 36% of their parent channel totals. There is also a modest but discernible demographic bias to the 16-34s which makes them even more valuable slots for advertisers, though probably not worth changing the ad break line-up for. The numbers for individual programmes can be remarkable; My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding doubles its audience through C4+1.
ITV1 only recently joined the +1 club, on January 11th, in part because CRR has only just been relaxed to allow +1 viewing to be aggregated into the parent channel numbers. The data from the first 2 weeks show that ITV1+1 added about 3% to the parent channel; a smaller % than for most other +1 channels but exactly as expected. The bigger the channel the more people watch it as broadcast and it is after all an extra 3% of the biggest commercial channel. It’s another part of the trend towards the re-aggregation of viewing around favourite TV that we are witnessing
It’s not a cheap option to run a +1 channel. All programming rights and carriage costs have to be paid for again, so a broadcaster really has to evaluate those against what a completely separate service might cost and deliver. But it looks like they are a good investment that works for broadcasters and viewers.