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The Drum

4 things you need to know about Channel 4’s digital-first strategy

4 things you need to know about Channel 4’s digital-first strategy

Channel 4 has laid out its five-year digital-first strategy, which will see the network place streaming content and new revenues at the forefront of its operations. Future4 will be the lynchpin of the broadcaster’s commercial self-sufficiency ambitions as it pivots away from traditional broadcast to extend its reach and deliver distinctive content at scale.

The new direction boils down to two clear objectives; namely to double All4 audiences and deliver 30% of total revenues from digital advertising and 10% from non-advertising.

Below, The Drum delves behind the four key pillars upholding this strategy.

Digital growth over linear ratings

  • Channel 4 acknowledges that it must change in order to 'remain a relevant and vibrant voice in a digital world.'

  • Future4 is at the heart of this ambition, acting as a blueprint to guide the broadcaster toward optimising all aspects of the business from commissioning to scheduling and commercial strategies in order to fulfil the potential of All4.

  • Successes to date have seen All4 audiences jump 27% through 2020, with the first lockdown coinciding with a 54% leap in views - comparable numbers to streaming video on demand leader Netflix.

  • Viewers have been drawn to an original programming stable that includes the likes of The Great British Bake Off, Taskmaster and The End of the F***ing World - in addition to archive and exclusive content such as The West Wing, ER and The Inbetweeners.

  • Channel 4 proudly proclaims All4 to be the UK's biggest free streaming service by content.

Viewers at the heart of decision-making

  • Chief marketing officer Zaid Al-Qassab cites marketing as the key to unlock All4’s untapped potential by better understanding target audiences.

  • Al-Qassab believes Channel 4 is well placed to capitalise on its wealth of first-party data pertaining to 34m registered All4 users to give viewers what they want through personalised programming, recommendations and communications.

  • Armed with this knowledge, Al-Qassab asserts that the broadcaster is in a 'strong place' to ’delight viewers’, saying: “We will place the viewer at the heart of every decision to inform how we commission, schedule, plan, develop, sell and market, and rightly so.

  • “Digital viewers have a high expectation that we understand them and provide experiences made for them.”

Diversify new revenue streams to underpin sustainability

  • New revenue streams will be largely drawn from digital sources, in a digital-first strategy led by chief executive officer Alex Mahon.

  • Mahon said: “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.“

Focus on strategic partnerships

  • Channel 4 has also revealed its intent to roll-out addressable advertising on linear services by partnering with Sky’s AdSmart.

  • The broadcaster is preparing to launch a series of social shorts and branded entertainment partnerships next year – notably the Mission Accessible travelogue series with Rosie Jones.

Anything else?

  • Channel 4 operates from a network of five regional centres in Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester as part of a commitment to decentralise operations that will see half of its original content budget invested outside London by 2023.

  • Unifying all these disparate strands will be a new brand purpose to ’Create change through entertainment’ that is supported by three commitments: to represent unheard voices, challenge with purpose and reinvent entertainment.

  • Mahon concluded: “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.”