INsight Tells Stories Through Ultra HD Content

Rian Bester, the COO and interim CEO of TERN International, which operates the premium Ultra HD channel INsight, talks to TV Real about the network’s scheduling strategy and its mission to bring viewers UHD content that tells a story.

INsight, launched at MIPCOM 2015, is a premium UHD global factual-entertainment channel operated by TERN International. “One of the principles we set out when we launched the channel is that we don’t want to just do traditional television,” says Rian Bester, the COO and interim CEO of TERN International. “We want to create compelling UHD content that tells stories. We want to bring something different.”

***Image***Bester adds: “Much of the UHD content out there right now is primarily about beauty shots to show off UHD televisions, but it’s not something that people can sit down and watch for long periods of time. We want to create content that [engages] people and is compelling and will make them watch the program the way television is supposed to be watched.”

Thus, Bester says, the programs INsight airs “not only lend themselves to UHD, but also have the ability to engage viewers.” Among the genres that air on INsight are science and technology, adventure game shows, factual entertainment, travel and adventure, and sports reality, including series that focus on extreme sports such as big-wave surfing. These titles target a male-skewed audience in the 18-to-45 age bracket.

A portion of INsight’s programming comes from the approximately 200 hours of original content TERN produces each year. Yet, Bester explains, “that is not enough hours to fill the channel, so we have some acquired content as well.” He says that this content can be difficult to find because “UHD content is scarce at the moment, and the content we acquire must fit the genres we air. We don’t want to have a mishmash of content on our channel.”

Another challenge for INsight is that the quality of the UHD content available on the market does not always meet its standards. Bester notes: “There is Ultra HD content out there that is shot in cinema frame rate, which is not a high enough quality for the channel, as we air content shot in 50 frame rate. So we acquire content, but it’s hard.”

INsight tackles this obstacle head-on by working with producers of shows that fit its genre requirements to ensure that the programs are filmed on par with its frame-rate specifications. For example, INsight acquired the first season of the automotive reality show Graveyard Carz and has produced subsequent seasons to its own specifications. INsight has used a similar strategy with other shows, such as the automotive reality title Losing Traction and the adventure reality series Lift Off.

INsight programs an access prime slot each evening that is designed to lead into the prime-time slot. Across the week, the channel applies thematic principles to its schedule. On Sundays, INsight airs its flagship shows for the first time, with adventure game shows like Spartan X or Dracula falling into this category. Mondays feature travel and adventure programming, while Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for factual entertainment. On Wednesdays, the channel airs repeats of its flagship shows. Fridays focus on science and technology titles, and Saturdays are dedicated to sports reality shows such as Inside Football. The channel employs a staggered repeat schedule due to the limited amount of UHD content that meets its specifications.

Interactivity is a key pillar of INsight’s push to stand out in the UHD space. “We are increasingly looking at ways that the audience can interact [with] our content,” Bester says. “We don’t want to rely on the UHD aspect alone to make INsight stand out. We want to push the boundaries in other areas as well.” For example, INsight has an application called Grab and Share, which allows viewers to select a short clip from a program and share it via social media. “This is something we can do quite easily because we own the content ourselves, so we don’t run into the usual rights issues,” Bester explains. “This is something unique that INsight is doing.”

Looking to the future, the channel is working to expand its presence across the globe. INsight launched with a European footprint that rolled out in October 2015 on the satellite Astra. It subsequently launched in the U.K., as well as on a satellite in Asia in April. This summer, the channel will launch in Portugal and Spain via the Vodafone platform.

“We are in discussions with a number of operators in the Asian region, namely South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and mainland China,” says Bester. “This is an important region for us because there are operators in the area that already have significant numbers of UHD subscribers.” Additionally, INsight is starting to look at the North American and Latin American markets, including the U.S.

“A lot of people underestimate the need for Ultra HD [content],” Bester says. “A lot of operators are cautious to dip their toes into the water when it comes to Ultra HD, but the key point is that the transition from SD to HD was very much content-driven, and then the consumer-electronic manufacturers convinced people to buy expensive HD televisions.

“Manufacturers have been selling Ultra HD televisions since 2014, so people have these televisions, and they’re dying for some proper content,” Bester says. “We can deliver that content to them—not only beauty shots, but compelling content that tells a story that people can sit and watch for hours.”