LONDON, UK — While other UK public service broadcasters continue their strategy of building their own streaming services, Channel 4 is also venturing out, in search of younger viewers.
While it continues to major with its own All 4 platform, which is being renamed simply “Channel 4”, the broadcaster has re-ignited a partnership with YouTube to publish both long- and short-form material.
With the Channel 4 seeing new, younger viewers (and an ad revenue share arrangement) from distributing off its own platform, the next challenge will be adequately measuring this off-platform viewing as part of its own advertiser offering.
Counting YouTube views
At Beet.TV’s London summit in December, Verica Djurdjevic, Chief Revenue Officer, Channel 4, talked me through the thinking.
“It’s not necessarily straightforward or easy, but, right from the outset of reigniting the partnership with YouTube, we’ve been thinking about, ‘How do we bring that measurement in and how do we make it complementary? ‘Even if it is currently three different streams, how do we make sure that it is kind of a like-for-like basis?
“That is the journey that we’re on and we’re able to do that at the moment.
“As things develop, with CFlight bringing linear and VOD together for us next year, we’ll also then be looking at, ‘Okay, well how does that expand and incorporate the YouTube aspect, at least from a reported perspective, even if it isn’t in the core methodology?'”
Advertisers are demanding broadcasters provide a cross-screen look at who is viewing what and where.
Thus far, broadcasters have preferred building their own streaming apps in order to gather that data for themselves and to build a direct relationship with their own viewers.
Meanwhile, however, data shows younger viewers continue to prefer digital video platforms over broadcasters’ own.
If Channel 4 can succeed at…
- using off-platform to attract new audiences
- using it to generate its own ad revenue there
- adequately measuring off-platform consumption
… it could prove to the industry the value in going off-platform.
Sky, ITV and Channel 4 plan to adopt NBCUniversal’s CFlight currency metric for cross-platform advertising, combining UK TV measurement group BARB’s linear TV viewing data with impressions from Sky Q, ITVX and Channel 4’s All 4.
The off-platform strategy
Once upon a time, Channel 4 distributed shows to YouTube, but pulled full-length episodes off in 2014, directing them to its own platform.
In 2022, the need to find new audiences and the possibility of taking ad revenue from YouTube distribution has reignited the YouTube partnership.
Djurdjevic told me: “We are now looking at, ‘Okay, well we can do all of that on our owned-and-operated platforms. How we might take that approach out into other distribution platforms and other places that our content will live in?'”
Although basic conventional wisdom in the industry goes something like “younger viewers use our digital streaming service”, the truth is that the viewers first attracted by the broadcasters’ own VOD platforms are no longer young.
The new generation of younger audiences continues to gravitate away from TV and toward YouTube and TikTok – meaning the broadcasters once again have to get creative.
“When they come up through their teen years and into the kind of content that we offer, we are increasingly having to think about how to create content that appeals to them and actually brings them into the Channel 4 world,” Djurdjevic says.
Channel 4’s reignited YouTube partnership comes in two guises:
1. Long-form distribution
A select number of shows is now back on YouTube in their entirety. Except material with adult themes, they can even be embedded off YouTube.
Djurdjevic calls it a “test”, involving “supporting that with the promotional tools that are available and, indeed, also selling advertising against it as an extension of what we’re able to offer advertisers”.
“But primarily it’s really to drive growth in viewing and it’s to drive reach so that we can actually see whether we can grow our incremental viewing off-platform, particularly with a focus on younger audiences.”
2. Short-form creativity
A new YouTube-specific channel, Channel 4.0, has been created to shape commissioning and creation of alternate modalities of material for younger audiences, including shorter-form.
“(We are) taking a whole series of some of them established YouTube stars and actually giving them commissioned programming or indeed completely original pieces of programming,” Djurdjevic says.
“All of that is actually overseen by digital commissioners within Channel 4 working within our overall commissioning system. We’re expecting to see real growth and energy from that over the coming 12 months.”
If the reawakened partnership with YouTube represents collaboration, Djurdjevic told me she wants to see a lot more of it in the industry over the next year.
“(We need) more collaboration both between different kinds of media owners,” she say.
“Cross-platform collaboration, cross-channel collaboration, I think, will be really important because, fundamentally, that is what advertisers are asking for.”
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