As a large number of our UK users will be aware, last night saw the launch of Series 2 of ITV's incredibly popular 'reality' show,The Only Way is Essex- a show which mimics the format and success of American series such as The Hills and The City but with a very British touch.

In the lead up to last night's launch ITV, one of the UK's three major terrestrial TV channels, embarked upon a massive online/ social media push to whet the appetite of the 'TOWIE' loving British public and position themselves as the TV channel most in touch with the youth of today.

In the weeks prior to last night, ITV ran a series of teaser adverts prompting its audience towards the ITV website where they could tweet, view full video previews of the series and interact with other Only Way is Essex viewers. Indeed, it has been interesting to see how the company has embraced the use of social media and how keen it has been to push its audience towards online content and videos.

You only have to look at the Only Way is Essex site to see ITV's innovative thinking- Twitter Feeds, Facebook links, iPhone Apps are all clearly visible and intended to create a community feel around its already captive audience.

Having worked closely with ITV on a taggable, fully interactive video for Season 1 of The Only Way is Essex, at WIREWAX we have seen first hand the changing nature of television- with broadcasters starting to realise the massive potential of creating a community around their most popular content.

ITV's WIREWAX integrated video featured a number of revolutionary features such as an SMS App which gave viewers the option to receive a text message 20 mins before the show aired on ITV and an Only Way is Essex 'Button App' which allowed viewers to-

  • Download wallpapers
  • See behind-the-scenes footage
  • Watch interviews with the cast
  • Catch up on previous episodes

The results from the video spoke for themselves- 120,000+ views, 90,000+ clicks and over 4 minutes of engagement for a video lasting just 2.5 minutes.

ITV however, are far from the only broadcasters who are starting to channel their content and viewers towards the online community.

BBC have been pushing the iPlayer, Tweeting and encouraging their viewers to interact through the BBC website, which, as we spoke about last week, has been re-designed to cater for the tablet/iPad generation.

Channel 4 have also been particularly pro-active in fostering their online community, particularly around interactive programmes like Deal or No Deal and the Million Pound Drop. Indeed, the latter recently attracted 785,000 online players during its second season, with Davina McCall urging viewers throughout the show to participate and interact through the C4 website.

There are clear differences in each of the broadcaster's approaches to how to handle and promote their online content.

The BBC at present choose to approach their online content in a subtle but professional way. Despite having by some distance, the most online content, their promotion of such remains quite subdued and very different in feel to ITV, whilst Channel 4 lie somewhere between the two in their promotion and delivery- using their presenters, rather than content itself to drive people towards their website.

The Only Way is Essex seems to be testament to ITV's new way of thinking; clearly embracing the move towards online content in the most visual and interactive manner.

The question which comes from this is, which method is actually the most effective way of utilising online content and driving viewers to it? The BBC's subtle approach? Channel 4's liberal, somewhere in the middle approach? Or ITV's determined new drive to make its online content a priority and at the forefront of its offering?

Over the next few months the WIREWAX blog will look into this issue in further detail, with reference to how broadcasters across the globe are approaching the move towards online content.