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Channel 4 details All 4 plan to use personalisation to push premium content at scale

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By Seb Joseph, News editor

March 26, 2015 | 5 min read

Channel 4 is set to launch its revamped digital offering All 4 next week (30 March), setting in motion its long-term bid become the home of premium content through personalised targeting at scale.

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The free ad-funded service marks what the broadcaster claims will be a “major transformation” to consolidate its digital services and deepen loyalty with viewers.

All 4’s arrival ends 4oD, which while a success with revenues tripling over the last five years, was not set-up to fulfil the broader ambitions the media owner now wants to pursue. At a time when viewers are increasingly snacking content and personalisation is key to cutting through the clutter, the broadcaster now has the ability to surface shorter shows, games and other services in more sophisticated ways whereas previously 4oD was seen as the home of shows that had already aired on the TV channel.

The proposition is crystallised through an intuitive design that allows viewers to swipe between three different states; the first setting lets viewers gorge on boxsets and catch-up on archived programmes, while a swipe to the right lets them snack on short form content and watch via simulacast the same content being broadcast on Channel 4. The final section features upcoming previews and promos of shows as well as allowing users to watch episodes before they officially air on the channel.

The app’s design will evolve over time to resemble the more editorially-led structure of its desktop counterpart. Content on the site is more attuned to what is happening in the world, meaning that should the General Election TV debates or King Richard III's burial bag column inches, then the broadcaster can push its own related content accordingly.

Keith Underwood, director of strategy and technology at Channel 4, told The Drum that it wanted to create a platform where personalised content experiences “can come to life” at scale for advertisers and viewers. All4 isn’t just another functional player, according to the broadcaster and has been built to sit as a separate channel alongside linear TV in what it calls a "multi-channel network.”

For Channel 4 to achieve its personalisation ambitions it needs data. It is why all users of All4 have to register their name, gender, date of birth as well as the option of the their address. The process has been ported over from 4oD, which had already amassed some 11 hundred optional sign-ups.

“In order to fund all the rich content and all the investment we make [into All 4]] then we need it to be an attractive destination to advertisers as well as people,” said Underwood. "The advertising component is a fundamental part [of the service] that fuels its investment."

“The ad proposition and the ad technology that we have [from 4oD] will continue to operate on All 4 but what this platform does mean is that we have far more space to create something that’s step change in terms of how content is presented.”

The ad technology mention refers to the company’s fledgling programmatic offering. Last November, Channel 4 became the first European broadcaster to launch a programmatic trading for its VOD programming with first party viewer data and has high hopes for the discipline's ability to secure larger ad deals moving forward. Dentsu Aegis media agencies Carat and Vizeum, which count Adidas, AB Inbev and BMW among their clients, are already buying targeted on-demand TV inventory via a tie-up with Channel 4.

Channel 4’s focus on viewer data is similar to Sky’s efforts to drive preicison marketing on TV through its Adsmart feature. Sky advertisers can target viewers with different ads via their connected boxes using their postcode.

All4’s arrival comes amid massive growth for the online video market that has revived fears from some observers that linear TV’s days as a premium advertising channel are numbered. Underwood dismissed the concerns and reiterated the broadcaster’s bid to create a multi-channel offering.

Speaking on a panel at Advertising Week earlier today (26 March), Channel 4 sales director Jonathan Allan, said: "YouTube is for kids, there's no content at YouTube at scale that’s for adults, no one watches it at scale."

The launch of All4 will be backed by a campaign next month that shows future versions of its popular shows like Made in Chelsea and comedian Alan Carr’s talkshow Chatty Man to support the idea that the service represents the future of the Channel 4 brand.

All4 will launch on Apple devices first before rolling out to Android and other set top box services later this year.

The video service is backed by O2’s sponsorship that will see ten of the broadcaster’s top shows premiered to O2 Priority customers 48 hours early. The deal also sees the mobile phone operator’s branding appear throughout All4.

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