Feature Stories


TVB Expands the Frontiers of Digital Marketing

For many years, television has been the primary tool used by marketers to reach their target audience. But as viewers change their viewing preferences, and digital marketing starts to become dominant, Hong Kong’s leading free-to-air broadcaster TVB has risen to the challenge by introducing a new digital strategy.

Cheong Shin Keong, General Manager of TVB

TVB is the first wireless commercial television station in Hong Kong. It has provided free-to-air broadcasting channels for Hongkongers for over 50 years. To sustain and build on its market share of advertising revenue, and meet changing viewer preferences, TVB launched myTV SUPER in 2016. This over-the-top (OTT) platform has so far attracted more than 5 million subscribers. An OTT platform can sell media such as movies directly to the public via the internet.

“With 35 to 40 per cent of viewers watching TV at peak viewing times, in terms of the streaming capacity relevant to the Hong Kong market, myTV SUPER can support a higher volume of traffic than any other streaming service,” says Cheong Shin Keong, TVB’s General Manager. Via an internet connection, subscribers can access more than 50 linear channels which feature an extensive library of content, including classic Cantonese dramas, and acquired programmes from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and all over the world.

Cheong says that to compete effectively with other platforms that carry digital advertising, TV broadcasters must leverage their existing strengths while looking for ways to build economies of scale. “It is vital to have a vision of the bigger picture before formulating strategies for the company,” says Cheong. For instance, myTV SUPER has the potential to expand into other parts of Asia, where Chinese-speaking communities exist. Cheong describes TVB’s digital marketing and expansion strategies as “works in progress”. He notes that future options could provide advertisers with more opportunities to promote products and services to a wider customer base.

Not simply tech

Cheong stresses that for digital marketing to be effective, it’s not simply a case of exploiting the available capabilities of the technology. It’s also necessary to have mechanisms in place to develop a deep understanding of what people need and want. “I think that digital marketing is still scratching the surface in terms of building the personal, meaningful relationships that digital marketers dream about,” says Cheong. He says marketers using global social media platforms were attracted to the concept of digital marketing because of their potential to target and track consumers. But for reasons which include personal privacy and business ethics, this has not been achieved at a meaningful personalized level.

“Digital marketing lacks a bit of finesse,” Cheong says, while pointing out that consumers have broadly accepted that using tech devices and services has implications for their personal privacy. “At some stage there will be a ‘sweet spot’, a point where consumers will be willing to pay to avoid being bombarded by advertisements, and to have some control over the information they provide,” says Cheong.

Leveraging TVB’s local knowledge

In terms of using media as a vehicle for digital marketing, Cheong says the fundamental difference between old media and new media is that the former produces content for viewers, while the latter is a platform for content produced by third-parties. Traditional media needs to use its revenue to produce or acquire new viewer content. But new media platforms can use their revenue to invest solely in new technology, a situation Cheong likens to a mixed martial artist using his legs and hands against an opponent restricted to using his hands.

Another element which distinguishes traditional television media from new media, says Cheong, is the audience demographics. While new media tends to be global in reach, media such as TVB can choose to tailor specific content to a local audience. Cheong believes this provides an advantage for advertisers seeking to connect with local consumers. “While we are unable to compete on a global scale, we understand the nuances of our viewers’ tastes, and create compelling content accordingly,” says Cheong, adding that TVB’s viewership numbers and consumer demographics are audited by an independent third party.

Insight into the minds of local users is vital when enterprises are formulating a marketing campaign, Cheong notes. Artificial Intelligence (AI), which uses algorithms, allows companies to target ads specifically to consumers based on their age, gender, and marital status, Cheong says. But he notes there is still a significant gap between this specific knowledge and the knowledge a human can provide about local consumers. The reality of artificial intelligence overtaking human intelligence is still some way in the future, says Cheong.

A further important strength arises from the fact that TVB can provide advertisers with guaranteed brand safety. Brand safety means ensuring that advertising doesn’t appear next to inappropriate content, or content that may not be in keeping with a brand’s positioning. “Offering brand safety is an area which we can continue to leverage,” says Cheong, although he concedes this is also an area where new media channels are trying to improve performance.

As digital marketing continues to evolve, Cheong believes new issues will lead to new priorities. “We are still at the beginning of the digital marketing story,” Cheong notes.