‘You can’t move audiences’: behind ITV’s investment in the metaverse and mobile gaming

ITV is pushing its IPs further into the metaverse and mobile games more than ever before. How is ITV able to connect with potential customers on other platforms and ensure the core business continues to benefit from these new ventures?

ITV already has a strong reach among the 16-34 year-old audience. That cohort is attractive and valuable for advertisers, and ITV’s IPs like Love Island enjoy significant cut-through among those younger viewers. This is why ITV Studios revenue increased in 2009. today’s half-year results, with its total revenue up 26% at £798m on the previous year.

But what ITV doesn’t necessarily have at the moment is frequency of contact with those younger audiences. Dan Colton is the group strategy and transformation director. He says that ITV recognizes that these audiences need to be reached on new platforms rather than relying on tentpole programs to draw them back on the linear channel. “What all businesses have learned – and what we certainly have – is that you can’t move the audience.

“You have to go to where the audiences are. Linear TV channels … still absolutely have their moment with those audiences, of course, and it’s still for the big events … but you have to realize they are spending a lot of time in different places.

“They’re spending more time on their phone, they’re spending more time gaming, they’re spending more time just doing other things. And we need to make sure our IP and our presence is in those places.”

The metaverse, gaming, and wellness

ITV announced today the first three companies that will be benefiting from its Studio 55 Ventures programme. This is in order to reach these audiences more frequently and to increase its frequency. Last autumn, ITV announced a collaboration with strategy and innovation firm Founders Intelligence to invest in smaller businesses that could connect with viewers beyond linear television.

It announced investments in companies specializing in mobile gaming, health and wellness, and the metaverse. Live Tech Games is a mobile entertainment company that creates live, player-vs-player, short-form gaming games and transforms them into entertainment. ‘nationwide experiences’ on phones.

Metavision is a studio and agency that bring entertainment IP and brands to metaverse. Its aim at ITV is to lead the expansion of ITV’s IP and brand partners into metaverse platforms, as well as “driving the group’s long-term strategy around the convergence of gaming and entertainment in these spaces”.

Woo, a wellness-driven media platform, lifestyle brand, and marketplace, is a content driven commercial play across categories like supplements, apparel and tech.

Colton says that while all the companies have their own commercial appeal, they share the capability to extend ITV’s IPs into those new mediums. Using the intersection between wellness and content as an example, he explains: “What’s underserved is the interaction between wellness and content, and that’s something that we can really do. We’re very keen with this that we don’t do something completely tangential to ITV, that we actually make use of these core strengths.

“So what’s so important about Woo is that intersection between delivering wellness content, and a wellness marketplace that sits alongside it. If it was just the marketplace, it wouldn’t be as appealing to us.”

Facebook has announced its own drive in the metaverse to accelerate the market’s development, with Mark Zuckerberg claiming it is the successor of the social web. Colton, who relates his personal experience with the early stages in the metaverse in games such as Fortnite and Rec Room, says that there is a lot of opportunity in leveraging IPs within the new space.

He cites the recreation of ITV’s The Void gameshow within Fortnite Creative as an example of being an early mover in the space relative to other broadcasters, though he does note that the metaverse is well-established enough to be a growing part of brands’ marketing plans.

The commercial metaverse

The commercial opportunities enabled by Studio 55 Ventures’s new investments are expected to be additive to ITV’s advertising revenues, rather than cannibalizing them.

Colton said that ITV discussions have raised this issue internally. However, he believes that brands recognize that each medium has its own audience. “We don’t think that the money that advertisers spend on a brand campaign in Fortnite is going to be the same money they would otherwise spend on linear advertising. It’s just not going to be for the same people as that, it’s clearly different people being reached in a different way. Time obviously will tell a little bit because once we start selling those first few campaigns, we can find out.”

The new ventures will be launched over the next few weeks and into next year. Metavision’s extensions are currently the first to go.

Ultimately, says Colton, the investment allows ITV to have a hybrid approach to reaching that lucrative demographic in a hybrid manner that doesn’t prioritize either editorial or commercial: “When we went out and said, ‘we want to do more with these audiences’, the easy option is just to go, ‘well, let’s just come up with some good content ideas.’ We forget that.

“It’s really important to us that we focus on things that are extensions of what we’re capable of, but are still brave and still take us into into new worlds, different worlds where those audiences exist.”

There is a benefit to having IPs that are able to exist on these platforms, as other broadcasters also invest in mobile gaming, wellness, and the metaverse. Although ITV has had success with mobile games that were based on properties like Love Island, these investments indicate its intent to expand them beyond linear television to reach younger audiences.