ITV slowly rolling toward paid VOD launch

UK commercial terrestrial TV leader ITV has soft-launched the online service it hopes will augment its traditional free-to-air model with direct digital viewer payments.

The launch will plug new features in to ITV Player, the existing online catch-up service which already gives access to shows from the last week. New features include on ITV Player Beta are:

  • Shows older than one month can be rented for between £0.49 ($0.78) and £1.29 ($2), viewable for 30 days after purchase.
  • “Box sets” of whole series will be available to rent for viewing within 90 days for between £1.99 ($3.20) and £4.99 ($8).
  • Soon, some episodes will premier online for paying viewings before their air on TV.
  • For some viewing options, users will need to register, giving ITV an email address to market to.

Ad-funded free TV has been ITV’s core model since it began transmitting in the 1950s But ITV began saying in mid-2009, as the economic downturn affected its ad sales, that it wanted to find more direct income from consumers.

ITV recently licensed some of its archive to Netflix and Lovefilm for paid income, though the launch of its own paid video plans have languished a little. It was being trialled by 5,000 homes in August.

ITV’s paid video challenge is two-fold – corralling enough reasons for fans of particular shows (like The Only Way Is Essex) to stump up cash, and successfully charging for its own archive when, through third-party services like Netflix and Lovefilm, users can access many more shows.

Today’s soft-launch of the basic new paid ITV Player features hits ITV CEO Adam Crozier’s target of launching something by autumn, but it is far from a complete service yet.