Has paid voting had its day?
No broadcaster or talent show producer likes to shout it too loudly, but the number of people paying to vote for their favourite contestant on TV declines season by season. And it’s been that way for a while.
That doesn’t mean that viewers are switching off from engaging with their favourite shows, quite the opposite in fact. Over the past four years of developing and managing apps for the biggest entertainment shows on TV, we’ve seen the number of active users of our apps grow steadily by annual rates of 30% and more.
As an example, this year’s BGT app was downloaded 1.5M times, an increase of 40% on last year’s download total of 1.1M. During the final episode of the series, 236,000 of the close to 300,000 users (80%) who had the app open engaged with the interactive content. This is a trend seen not just during BGT but across all the shows we support, in the UK and internationally.
While paid voting tends to weight votes towards the grand finale, continuous engagement through well designed interactivity and gamification, both during and between show episodes, is proven to be of far more value to the viewer, the producer and the broadcaster. Again looking at the BGT 2014 app, 14.1m user sessions were recorded across the whole of the series, with 1.1m taking place during the final episode.
This success comes from editorially-focused features such as in-app predictions, polling and free voting, as well as buzzers and raters which allow viewers to register their feelings about contestants’ performances. During last year’s X Factor, we ran a free song-choice vote giving viewers the opportunity to decide which songs each contestant would sing during one weekend. That interaction gained more than one million votes in just a few days.
TV viewers are not dumb. On the contrary, they are becoming more and more discerning about digital engagement and make smart, value-based choices on how they spend their time interacting.
In summary, premium voting volumes are likely to continue to whither and die. Viewers are smart and they expect much more value from their interactions. Producers and broadcasters who provide that value will be rewarded with better ratings and better commercial outcomes.