LONDON — UK broadcaster Channel 4 is seeing a 40% bump in views on All 4, its multi-platform on-demand player, during the coronavirus pandemic. Now all it has to do is reverse ad revenue that is declining even faster.

Early in April, the broadcaster said “TV ad market (sales are) set to be down in excess of 50% over April and May”, as advertisers pulled back.

Within three weeks, it unveiled a stack of three new digital ad products, designed to help advertisers better target viewers of All4, its viewing platform with 23 million registered users.

In this video interview with Jon Watts for Beet.TV, Jonathan Lewis, C4’s head of digital and partnership innovation, explains how Channel 4 aims to solve the problem being experienced by advertisers around the globe – the uncoupling of viewer supply and advertiser demand during the pandemic, which has exacerbated the challenges already facing TV ad sales.

New tools

4Sales, Channel 4’s ad sales arm, announced Advanced Data Suite, comprising:

Brandm4tch:

Allows advertisers to bring their own first-party data for matching against All4’s 23 million registered users. Based off platforms from data companies InsoSum and Mediarithmics, it is a renaming and trial-phase run of a product announced last year.

“Brandm4tch is pretty pioneering, we think,” Lewis says. “From a broadcast perspective, we don’t think this is going on globally across the different broadcasters. And it really is because we’ve got this huge set of first-party data that we can append this match to.”

Approved:

Allows advertisers using Acxiom to build data segments to deploy them through All4.

“It allows those clients that don’t have access to first-party data, but are buying either bespoke or off the shelf segments from Acxiom, to be able to buy those segments on All 4,” Lewis says. “That delivers much more granular targeting capability on All 4.”

Bespoke:

Allows advertisers to build their own audience segments from All4 registration data, viewing preference data and previous All4 ad delivery data.

“(It) offers a much more sort of granular-based targeting based on viewer consumption viewer audiences and also viewer history.”

Booming audiences

Those offerings are important because Channel 4’s All4’s is actually experiencing a big jump in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We feel that our channels and our on-demand services are becoming stickier for younger audiences,” says Lewis, who was previously with Vevo and Channel 5 “There are younger audiences maybe that are coming onto All4 for the first time and watching content that they didn’t watch the first time around

“There’s a huge archive of content that they can pick that people can feed on is really encouraging for us. So our job is to try and ensure that we can hold on to those audiences. And then we can continue to sort of plough the furrow for advertisers to reach those audiences.”

Channel 4 has been trying to benefit from latest audience behavior. It has run the message “#StayAtHome” across its shows during the UK’s lockdown, suggesting that the government edict can align nicely with a rare opportunity for a captive audience.

But this boom is not being seen from advertisers. Channel 4 is now offering advertisers free use of its 4Creative team for shooting ads.

“We have this kind of a weird dynamic where even though advertising revenues are being deferred, we’ve seen the biggest viewing on our platforms then we’ve seen probably in the last 10 or 12 years,” Lewis explains.

“All4 has seen record growth around about 40% views over the course of the last six to eight weeks.”

Agile ad creative

Around the world, we are seeing broadcasters have to think quickly and work hard to woo advertisers, with a mixture of discounted ad rates, rolling upfronts and new targeting capabilities.

In turn, Lewis wants to extend that agility to advertisers, too. Channel 4 is adding its Eng4ge Now product to 4Sales’ line-up, enabling ad buyers to request creative adjustments within a 24-hour window.

That can support messaging recalibration, for example, including for those brands which want to profess support for key public workers at this time.

“It’s effectively a frame that sits within the advertising asset that we can change and alter, which also allows us to be reactive to what’s going on in the current marketplace,” Lewis says.

“We can change their creative for them without actually having to physically go and re-edit or go and film something new.”

The road to addressable

All of this builds on Channel 4’s strong track record of technology partnerships during Lewis’ tenure.

The broadcaster had previously used FreeWheel for its “Fourfronts” programmatic offering.

Although, during COVID-19 so far, on-demand usage of All4 has rocketed, Lewis also wants to build out addressable ad capabilities for Channel 4’s linear play-out.

Last year, it inked a deal to use Sky’s pioneering AdSmart technology to do just that, delivering household-personalized ads in Channel 4’s own channels as well as those of rivals serviced by 4Sales, across both Sky and Virgin Media platforms.

But Lewis says he is also eyeing other platforms to do the same, including the UK’s YouView consortium and the continental-Europe HbbTV standard – both digital terrestrial-led technologies.

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