C4 sets 30% digital ads target in five-year strategy pivot

Channel 4: upcoming programming includes Max Clifford documentary (bottom left)
Channel 4: upcoming programming includes Max Clifford documentary (bottom left)

Figure is more than double last year's level.

Channel 4 has unveiled a five-year strategy that aims to accelerate its pivot to digital, including a significant increase in streaming content and new revenues.

The Future4 strategy, unveiled today by chief executive Alex Mahon, includes targets to double viewing on video-on-demand platform All 4 by 2025. All 4 had 995 million programme views and 22.2 million registered users at the end of 2019.

Channel 4 also set a target to get 30% of total revenue from digital advertising and 10% from “non-advertising”. Digital advertising accounted for 14% of Channel 4’s total revenue in 2019 and is on track to grow to 17% in 2020. Digital revenue, including syndication of All 4, will grow from 17% of total revenue to 20% in 2020, the broadcaster added.

During an online event this afternoon (Thursday), Channel 4 announced core commercial innovations that include expanding its data-matched digital advertising products, as well as the roll-out of addressable advertising on linear services through partnerships, such as Sky’s AdSmart platform.

'Viewer-centric'

In an effort to become more “viewer-centric”, Channel 4 intends to launch a more sophisticated “data-led targeting model” to inform its content, marketing and product development strategy.

It plans to use the first-party data it has from 24 million registered users of All 4 to personalise the experience of viewers on the VOD platform, such as content recommendations and product features.

Channel 4 said this viewer data has been augmented with “deeper attitudinal research” and will be adding “further insight and understanding of social media habits” via 4Studio.

It will also scale up 4Studio, its new digital content hub in Leeds, in order to grow and make more effective the organisation’s social media output. It touted the success 4Studio has had this year with Snapchat, where Channel 4 and E4 programmes are republished as short-form clips. 

Channel 4 also plans to “accelerate” the take-up of All 4+, the ad-free version of All 4, by “creating new content, features and product enhancements”.

Four pillars for five-year strategy

The strategy has four key pillars: prioritise digital growth over linear ratings; put viewers at the heart of decision-making; diversify new revenue streams to underpin sustainability; and focus on strategic partnerships to compete more effectively.

Channel 4 said all of its commissioning, scheduling and commercial strategy will be optimised towards growing viewers and revenue on All 4, with a “much greater” focus on investing in content that can “deliver long-term digital viewing growth”.

The broadcaster said it will invest more in “young-skewing formats”, such as Snackmasters or The Dog House, as well as creating more unconventional reality TV programmes such as The Circle

Channel 4 also wants to commit more resources to original short-form content that is distributed on social media.

Next year, it plans to launch social shorts as well as branded entertainment partnerships, such as this year’s Mission Accessible travelogue series with Rosie Jones.

There will also be a slate of E4 digital shorts, including a series called What If featuring Munya Chawawa, and a strand of unscripted social content aimied at teenagers.

Channel 4 stressed that this will “in no way” replace the creative development process, but will instead be allied with commissioners’ expertise and their production partners to “better inform and aid the development” of content. 

Representing unheard voices 

The broadcaster also announced a new purpose that was unveiled to staff today: "Create change through entertainment." This is accompanied by three commitments: represent unheard voices, challenge with purpose and reinvent entertainment.

Mahon said: “Our ongoing focus is to continue to deliver our purpose and remit with meaningful scale and impact, and I’m incredibly proud that we have already moved our viewing and our advertising revenues to digital at a faster rate than our competitors.

"We want to push this even further still and our new Future4 strategy is about underpinning our commercial sustainability and ensuring that we have a clear plan to transform ourselves into a digital public-service media organisation that delivers across the whole of the UK for the future.”

Channel 4, which now operates across five bases in Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester, added that it is on track to deliver on its commitment to have 300 jobs based in the UK nations and regions by 2021, as well as 50% of original content budget being invested outside the capital by 2023.

It also confirmed that it should complete the move to its new national headquarters in the Majestic buildinig in Leeds next year.

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