A Cuppa Media: The digital future of Channel 4

Written by Alex Veeneman

Television, one of the unique mediums of media, and how we consume it, is changing.

Television, one of the unique mediums of media, and how we consume it, is changing. Particularly with younger audiences, the experience of watching television is becoming digital, as catch up services, either on TV or on mobile or tablet, become popular ways to watch a particular favourite programme, be it The Great British Bake Off, Made in Chelsea, Glue, or other shows.

For Channel 4, young audiences have been essential to the broadcaster’s development, either through its programmes (including the notable yet controversial drama Skins) or its web site, where 1 in 2 16-34 year olds in the UK are registered users of the site, according to provided statistics.

The engagement of younger audiences had been part of a wider strategy by the broadcaster’s chief executive, David Abraham.

A digital future

Then, Abraham announced on 11 September a new platform for on demand services, All 4, and the scrapping of 4OD, the current service. A statement from Channel 4 said All 4 would be introduced next year, starting on PC and iOS devices, and then expanding to other platforms.

Abraham, in that statement, said All 4 would ensure the relevance of Channel 4’s content moving forward, as consumption of TV turns digital.

“We believe All 4 will deliver the most advanced broadcaster response to changing viewer behaviour in the digital age, and will help ensure that our content portfolio remains an important, valued part of viewers’ TV consumption for decades to come,” Abraham said.

All 4 will consist of three sections – Now, which will allow you to live stream Channel 4 (or its sister networks, which include E4, More4 and Film4), On Soon, which will consist of new programme clips and promotions, as well as the ability to watch some premieres of programmes before they are broadcast, and the On Demand, with cast interviews joining catch up and archived content.

Many people, including the journalist and blogger Lucy Ruthnum, are in favour of catch up services.

Content ‘available when you want it’

For Channel 4, this strategy is a move in the right direction, indicative of current trends, says Alexandra Waring, a Modern Languages student at the University of Sheffield who has worked in digital strategy and marketing.

“With the move towards more of an online presence, they are helping themselves and younger people have more accessibility to their content,” Waring said, adding that Channel 4 had done well with younger audiences when it came to 4OD. “Once it’s online it opens many doors.”

Waring says All 4 is an easier platform for Channel 4 and sponsors to get in touch with younger audiences, as younger generations are looking for easy and quick access to their favourite programmes, which will likely see a wider shift for all broadcasters.

“People will move away from channels and brands that aren’t offering at your fingertips information and TV shows,” Waring said. “Content will be available when you want it.”

Overall, Waring says, there will be big things happening for Channel 4 should this take off.

“If this takes off, it’s going to be a really big thing, especially if they integrate it with online and offline campaigns and media,” Waring said. “It will boost them.”

The announcement by Abraham signifies a trend moving forward, not just at Channel 4 but at other networks, including ITV and the BBC. For younger audiences and television, innovation is key to keeping up, and it is hoped that All 4 will do that.

What do you think of All 4? Is this a right move for Channel 4? Have your say in the comments section below.