Big data to drive marketing push as Channel 4 signs up ten million UK viewers

Editor | 05-02-2014

A long-standing marketing push into digital by the UK's fourth broadcaster has blossomed with the news that Channel 4 now has a database of registered viewers exceeding ten million.

In a country with just over 23 million homes, this is a formidable achievement and is made even better for the station by capturing half of all those in the key 16-24 demographic in the UK. Having such insight, said Channel 4, has enabled it to introduce new targeted advertising to video-on-demand (VOD) services which have helped drive digital revenue growth. Indeed an increasing proportion of the corporation's commercial revenue is now being directly or indirectly supported by first party data from individual users.

The next phase of the strategy will see the data on viewer behaviour helping to inform the creative teams in commissioning and marketing. Viewer data has enabled Channel 4 to create relationship marketing channels in which it can deliver a more personalised experience for viewers. Direct email communications with registered viewers have personalised recommendations for both the flagship on-demand platform 4oD and linear content based on their viewing behaviour.

Helmed by director of audience, technology and insight, Gill Whitehead, Channel 4 has built a new data analytics and CRM team which it says has been able to process high levels of data at low cost. This includes loading and analysing billions of viewer interactions in shorter times than previously possible.

On the 4oD on-demand service, algorithmically generated recommendations are given via the 'Watch Next' feature at the end of each view; these have driven a conversion rate to viewing of more than double that of non-registered recommendations. Behaviourally-targeted promotional trails are used on 4oD, improving marketing efficiency and effectiveness, and an increasing proportion of registered viewers have linked their Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts to their Channel 4 accounts, so that known fans of shows are now re-contacted via Twitter when there is news about their favourite show returning.

During the second phase of development of the 4oD recommendation engine, Channel 4 says that it will endeavour to ensure that recommendations better reflect Channel 4's PSB purpose and help promote new creative voices and deliver "an element of surprise in the suggestion of new content for viewers".

"The speed at which we have grown our database of registered users in the three years since launch has been overwhelming, and to reach ten million registrations is testament to just how engaged our viewers are and how much they trust the Channel 4 brand," commented David Abraham, Channel 4's chief executive.

"We've been able to use the scale of the database to have a new and more direct relationship with our viewers and to offer our advertisers new and innovative ways of better targeting the audiences they want to reach ... In the next phase of our strategy we want to further unlock the behavioural insight the data gives us to help add greater insight to our creative processes."