RTÉ director general Noel Curran said the broadcaster will not be “timid, defensive or conservative” as it aims to grow its digital services.
Speaking at an IBEC conference on Online Business Models and Content Industry, Curran said revenues for its ad-supported digital services were small compared to radio and TV. He believed that this was due to the relative immaturity of the digital advertising market in Ireland.
“Even if the digital advertising market was to grow by double digits year-on-year for the next five years, as many predict it will, and even if RTÉ managed to hold onto approximately 10pc of display advertising, our net increase in annual revenues from digital advertising would be at best €4-6m,” he said.
“This is simply not sufficient to either make up for the long-term displacement of TV and radio advertising revenues or to support the development of the kinds of digital services that are essential if RTÉ is to remain relevant in the increasingly digital lives of Irish people,” said Curran.
To tackle this, Curran said RTÉ is introducing changes to how they operate, how they view the market and what they offer. He believes that the broadcaster could grow its digital services revenue from 2.5pc of its group commercial revenue in 2010 to 15pc by 2015.
It has already introduced a new division – RTÉ Digital – for its digital strategy and the broadcaster will offer multidisciplinary training for its staff to create content on numerous platforms.
RTÉ is also considering new digital content models, such as digital merchandising, companion applications for two-screen experiences and premium-based video-on-demand services for international audiences.
“We believe that a movement by the largest domestically-owned content producer and online operation in Ireland into the premium space, however limited initially, can only help build recognition from the public that online content needs to be financially supported,” he said.
“We also believe that entering this space will enhance opportunities not just for ourselves but for others, as well,” said Curran.
However, he emphasised that providing “free open access” to RTÉ content for Irish audiences will remain a key part of its digital strategy in the coming years. He said RTÉ will also be more open to sharing its content with a broader audience.
“RTÉ’s goal is to seek mutually beneficial partnerships with companies and organisations that have an interest, like us, in the provision of quality Irish content,” said Curran.
“It is to be more open to the possibilities of sharing RTÉ content with a wider audience on terms that benefit both parties. Where new sources of revenue emerge we will share them in a way that is fair and mutually beneficial.”
Curran said that if audiences were to benefit from new media technologies, network speeds need to improve and adapt quickly.
“For example, last year, 15pc of traffic on RTÉ’s web services came from mobile devices. Just 12 months later, that figure stands at over 40pc – a staggeringly rapid increase that has all sorts of implications for network providers and regulators,” he said.
“It will require new, more flexible and creative approaches by regulators and Government. As I’ve said, innovation will require experimentation – some initiatives will be successful and others won’t, but it will be critical that such innovation is supported and allowed time to grow,” said Curran.