C4 viewer database hits 10m unique users

Channel 4 has announced its database of registered viewers has now reached over 10 million registered viewers, which includes one in two of all 16-24 year olds in the UK. This key milestone in Channel 4’s viewer engagement strategy has enabled Channel 4 to introduce new targeted advertising to VoD, which have helped drive growth in Channel 4’s digital revenues – with an increasing proportion of the corporation’s commercial revenue 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.

Led by Director of Audience, Technology and Insight, Gill Whitehead, Channel 4 has built a new data analytics and CRM team and invested in the latest Big Data technology. Enabled by open-source technology and cloud based platforms, much of which has been built by companies in Silicon Valley, the analytics team have been able to process high levels of data at low cost – loading and analysing billions of viewer interactions in much shorter times than would be possible on traditional closed source technology. The data analytics team has fostered deep links with academic institutions and is now focussed on leveraging value from machine learning capabilities.

Viewer data has enabled Channel 4 to leverage new 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 4oD and linear content based on their viewing behaviour. On 4oD, 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.

A second phase of development of the 4oD recommendation engines is also underway to ensure that the recommendations better reflect Channel 4’s PSB purpose and help promote new creative voices – delivering an element of surprise in the suggestion of new content for viewers.

All of Channel 4’s viewer engagement activity is underpinned by a Viewer Promise, which clearly and transparently states what will and won’t be done with viewers’ personal data – and allows users to control their permissions.

Commercially, Channel 4 has benefited from the volume of valuable first party viewer data, which has facilitated new advertising innovations introduced to the market this year for the first time. The results of a commercial data targeting trial in partnership with comScore and MTM London found that using demographically targeted ad packages significantly increased the efficiency and effectiveness of advertising for Channel 4’s clients and partners. 4oD was found to be +112% more efficient than competitor sites at delivering the right demographic audience and, in terms of effectiveness, top of mind brand awareness was found to have double the uplift compared to untargeted campaigns, with ad recognition up +67% and click through rates more than doubled.

David Abraham, Channel 4’s Chief Executive said: “The speed at which we have grown our database of registered users in the three years since launch has been overwhelming and to reach 10 million registrations is testament to just how engaged our viewers are and how much they trust the Channel 4 brand.

“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.”

Gill Whitehead, Director of Audience Technology and Insight said “Our big data investment, which is now in profit this year, has enabled Channel 4 to be the first UK broadcaster to take demographically targeted video on demand ads to market. Channel 4 is demonstrating that big data can support creativity – by funding it through advertising premiums and by connecting programmes to the audiences that are most likely to appreciate them”.

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