ITV Interactive turns 300 million rows of customer data into fast, actionable insights with Tableau


Self-service analytics enabled amongst ITV’s senior leadership
80+ spreadsheets replaced with single source of truth
Better, faster insights driving new data-centric culture

ITV is a commercially operated free-to-air television network in the UK. The company’s Interactive department delivers and oversees all revenue-driving events running across its channels, including viewer competitions, voting, charity events and more. In 2016 the department implemented Tableau alongside Amazon Redshift as part of a major overhaul to its IT infrastructure, replacing 80+ disparate spreadsheets and data sources with a single source of truth. Doing so has streamlined data processing and significantly improved quality of analysis, allowing for the creation of highly detailed data visualizations and reports in a matter of minutes, rather than hours. Tableau has also enabled ITV’s senior management to self-serve many of their own analytics needs, driving a new data-centric culture throughout the company.

It’s easy to think of data analytics as a specialist skill, but tools like Tableau can enable anyone to start uncovering their own insights

Turning a tangled web of spreadsheets into a streamlined single source of truth

ITV’s Interactive department is responsible for planning and implementing revenue-driving viewer competitions, votes and charity events across some of the network’s most popular shows including ‘The X Factor’, ‘Love Island’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of here!’.

In order to do this effectively, the team collects and analyses millions of data points via ITV’s associated apps, which provides key insights into the number/frequency of unique customers interacting with the shows and the main factors contributing to their behavior.

Prior to Tableau, the Interactive team was relying on a combination of Excel spreadsheets, Access and Oracle databases for all of its data collection, analysis, forecasting and reporting. However, with data volumes growing rapidly, the disparate nature of this system was making it harder and harder to uncover the insights they were looking for in a timely manner.

“Our data was spread across 70-80 different spreadsheets and databases, making it extremely difficult to perform fast, accurate analysis or fully understand customer journeys across the network,” says Nicola Hubbard, Senior Commercial Analyst at ITV Interactive.

Now, all data is processed and stored in an Amazon Redshift data warehouse containing over 300 million rows of data. Tableau then plugs directly into this, completely eliminating data silos across the department and creating a single source of truth for the whole team to work from.

“With Tableau, we’ve got instant access to every piece of data across all of ITV Interactive’s shows,” says Richard Cook, Commercial Analyst Manager at ITV Interactive. “In just a few clicks, we’re able to conduct deep-dive analysis and create highly detailed, interactive reports that previously would have taken weeks to achieve.”

One particular area of interest to senior executives at ITV is ‘unique entrants’, which is the number of individual customers interacting with shows across the network.

“Using our old spreadsheet-based system, it was nearly impossible to track unique entrants because we couldn’t analyze all of our shows side-by-side,” says Nicola. “Now, we can quickly pull the data directly from Amazon Redshift and visualize it in a single Tableau dashboard that’s easy for the executive team to understand and digest.”

“For example, using our old system, if a single customer entered the competition on an episode of The X Factor one evening, then a few weeks later they also entered on an episode of I’m a Celebrity, that would have looked like the actions of two separate people,” explains Richard. “In Tableau, we can identify that as the actions of a single unique entrant, plus we’re also able to see additional contributing factors such as when they entered and how many other ITV shows and competitions they’ve also entered etc. All of this helps us to build a more comprehensive picture of our audiences and formulate more engaging interactive experiences for them in future.”

A report that would have taken one or two weeks to create in Excel and PowerPoint can be done in just one or two days in Tableau. The time we save can then be reinvested into getting even more depth from our data.

Self-service analytics enabled at the highest levels of the organization

Tableau’s intuitive interface and highly visual approach to data analysis has sparked significant interest amongst ITV’s senior leadership team, many of whom are now using it to self-serve their own analytics needs for the first time.

“In the past, executives would always come to us for every piece of analysis or reporting they required,” says Nicola. “However, once they saw how easy Tableau was to use, they quickly realized they could do much of the analysis they needed themselves.”

“It’s easy to think of data analytics as a specialist skill, but tools like Tableau enable anyone to start uncovering their own insights,” adds Richard. “Not only that, but the reports you can create in it are so much more dynamic and visual than anything you can do in Excel, making them much easier to understand.”

Tableau has also helped the Interactive team make significant savings in the amount of time they spend compiling reports.

“Tableau provides in-depth insight at speed, which is exactly what we needed,” says Nicola. “We’re no longer chasing our tails and can quickly send out intricate reports and analysis on-demand, to both internal teams and external partners such as production companies.”

“A report that would have taken one or two weeks to create in Excel and PowerPoint can be done in just one or two days in Tableau,” says Richard. “The time we save can then be reinvested into getting even more depth from our data, which we simply didn’t have the time to do before.”

In the past, executives would always come to us for every piece of analysis or reporting they required. However, once they’ve seen how easy Tableau was to use, they quickly realized they could do much of the analysis they needed themselves.

Better data leads to faster, more accurate insights and increased demand

Before Tableau, data analytics was primarily seen as a retrospective tool at ITV, used at the end of decision-making processes and television series runs to assess performance, rather than inform thinking from the outset. However, that’s changing.

“Implementing Tableau has created a snowball effect within the company,” says Nicola. “Better data analytics leads to better insights, which in turn leads to greater demand for data right from the beginning of new initiatives.”

“The more people see, the more they want,” agrees Richard. “As a result, we’re seeing a new data-centric culture emerging, driven from the very top of the company.”

Tableau adoption is also spreading throughout ITV, with the Online and Finance teams already using it and many other departments showing interest as well.

“Tableau can be as flexible as you need it to be, making it an incredibly powerful asset to any department,” says Richard. “Once people have seen it in action, it doesn’t take long before they’re knocking on our door and asking how they can get access for their department.”

Implementing Tableau has created a snowball effect within the company. Better data analytics leads to better insights, which in turn leads to greater demand for data right from the beginning of new initiatives.