Free TV Rights playing catch-up with Pay TV

Free TV Rights playing catch-up with Pay TV


Tom Blackman


Senior Analyst

Both Pay TV and Free TV continue their march to have more enhanced catch-up for their content acquisitions but it’s apparent that the public broadcasters are catching up to Pay TV platforms in terms of offering more catch-up rights to their viewers.

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As ShowTracker reveals, we can see that in the last six annual seasons the percentage of titles showing enhanced catch-up (being stacked weekly or as a box-set on the day of the premiere) have been increasing year on year. This happens for both pay and free TV broadcasters, but the difference in percentage is where we can really see the change occurring.

In 2016/17 pay broadcasters already had enhanced catch-up for 57% of their titles and rose by 35% over the next six years, but in contrast free broadcasters in the same period increased their enhanced catch-up offer by 51%.

While it’s possible the degree in which they’ve changed is because free broadcasters had much less enhanced catch-up in the first place it doesn’t change the fact that both pay and free broadcasters are offering much more similar levels of catch-up now. With deals like these becoming commonplace we can assume broadcasters of all types are seeing the advantage of the enhanced catch-up on their services driving subscriptions for Pay TV and viewers to Free TV catch-up services as they try to mimic the binge watching culture of the big name streamers.

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One such service we’ve seen in recent years following this trend is the public broadcaster SVT in Sweden. In the 2017/18 season only three of their acquisitions had enhanced catch-up making up only 27% of their acquisitions, compared that to the current season where 88% of their acquisitions has some form of enhanced catch-up. SVT also makes a very interesting case study because of the manner in which they are using the content that they buy because in recent years they have acquired shows that only premiered on their catch-up service SVT Play without a broadcast premiere. Indeed of their last six acquired premieres, which are all from different distributors, three of them have been released like this as an FVOD (Free VOD) Boxset, showing SVT’s new strategy to drive viewers onto SVT Play.

With other broadcaster catch-up services also doing the same thing such as BBC iPlayer in the UK and ABC iView in Australia it seems the cheaper Rolling 5 rights deals are steadily becoming extinct.

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