C4: Ofcom must be wary who controls audience data

David Abraham, the chief executive of Channel 4, has called on Ofcom to investigate the control of audience data after warning that valuable information is being “controlled and commercially exploited” by others.

Abraham said that audience data is the “new oil, or soil, of television” and that as viewing behaviour becomes increasingly measurable through interactivity in the future advertiser-funded public service broadcasters risk being left behind.

“I don’t think the penny has dropped about who is controlling the data,” he said, speaking at a Royal Television Society. “Who’s controlling the data and who has access to it? In my view this should be a central issue in Ofcom’s proposed review of airtime trading. Future ad sales models are unclear but two things are certain – change is likely and data is becoming more important.”

Abraham pointed out that about two-thirds of all “TV audiovisual content” viewing time will be “tracked intelligently” in some way by 2020, according to Channel 4 research.

“I believe that it is essential for the future of Channel 4 that we ensure that the data that exists around content we generate with our creative partners is not simply controlled and commercially exploited by other platforms, whoever they are,” he said.