All 4 Original Content

4oD was Channel 4’s catch-up service until last March, when it was rebranded to ‘All 4’. Keith Underwood, director of strategy and technology at the broadcaster, discussed the decision, and what it meant.

Channel 4 has traditionally targeted young, tech-savvy audiences; this requires a very innovative and adaptable culture. However, conventional (linear) TV broadcasting is “stubbornly resilient”. According to BARB data, TV viewing only declined by three minutes per day, on average, between 2005 and 2015 in the UK. Live and recorded TV is still responsible for 85% of daily entertainment consumption. Because of this, Underwood has “no desire” to switch to IP-only distribution by 2020.

DTG Channel 4 slideClick for higher resolution4oD was a platform based around driving catch-up viewing. It inherited a high-volume, low-cost audience from Channel 4, but scale was dependent on the quality of last night’s TV. All 4 is a platform that does catch-up, but is also designed to attract new audiences. This is being achieved through original content, boxed sets and more. It is a unique offer, however, as it is completely free.

Channel 4 is now trying to move the perception of All 4 away from ‘just catch-up’. It should sit alongside linear channels. One of the first ways in which this was done was with short (around 10 minute) pieces of original content, which are now responsible for about one in 20 views. Another offer is ‘Walter Presents’, which has had very good reviews. It is a collection of free foreign language content. “Not art house stuff,” said Underwood. “This is high quality box office-type content – is just happens to not be in English.”

All 4 now has 13 million registered users, including more than half of 16-34 year-olds in the UK! Advertisers are using a dynamic ad platform called Ad 4 You to target these viewers.

In the audience questions, someone asked if we could reach a point where original content starts online, rather than on Channel 4. It is possible but not for a long time, said Underwood. Ofcom believes that terrestrial TV will be alive until at least 2030.

Earlier in the presentation, Underwood had said that 65% of all viewing on All 4 is still catch-up. He was asked if Channel 4 had a target figure for this, but said no. The broadcaster believes that the number will continue to go down, but thinks as long as people are finding what they want, it doesn’t matter.

A final question concerned the UK government’s BBC white paper (BBC White Paper Meets Mixed Reactions), which was released on the day of the summit. “Is Channel 4 out of the firing line?” Underwood was asked. He pointed out that the channel is a public service broadcaster, and thus is government-owned. He believes that it is right that the government reviews the assets that it owns on a periodic basis. However, the government has been reviewing Channel 4 for some time and this is creating uncertainty amongst partners.