Views on Channel 4 programmes on-demand jumped 23 per cent last year, as the broadcaster’s digital strategy continues to drive its growth.
Channel 4’s 2014 Annual Report, published today, reveals a £30 million increase in revenue for the broadcaster, which totalled £938 million last year. The channel’s spend of £430 million in original content was maintained over the three years to 2014, establishing a new spine of returning series, such as Gogglebox, Educating… ,The Island, The Jump and The Undateables. This creative success saw the broadcaster take home awards including Channel of the Year, three Oscars, and more BAFTA and Royal Television Society programme awards than any other UK channel.
Channel 4 says it has met its planned three-year investment and break even business targets, reporting an overall financial surplus of £3m, with cash reserves remaining above £220 million for the fifth year in a row. That is partly thanks to advertising and sponsorship revenues, which climbed £23 million in 2014 to £869 million.
Digital growth, though, is also at the heart of Channel 4’s ongoing strategy.
Channel 4 has continued to develop its digital presence in the past year. At the start of 2015, 4oD was relaunched as part of Channel’s new All 4 service, which integrates TV viewing, upcoming programmes and archive videos into one platform. That rebrand built on a successful 2014, which saw 4oD launch new original content in addition to its catch-up content, such as the new Shorts channel.
Netflix and shorts fuel 4oD growth
Short form content proved highly popular among viewers across comedy, news and education, with the Shorts strand generating 3 million views on 4oD.
Visits to Channel 4’s websites overall also increased 18 per cent year-on-year to a total of 634 million. Channel 4’s apps accounted for the most significant growth, with the number of visits increasing by 75 per cent, as users become increasingly used to accessing digital content through dedicated apps, such as 4oD (now All 4) and Channel 4 Racing.
On 4oD, views jumped 23 per cent year-on-year, with a total of 587 million programme views in 2014. 4oD has always enjoyed compatability with a range of platforms and devices, from tablets and consoles to phones and connected TVs. 2014’s growth, though, was driven by mobile platforms and connected TVs.
Netflix played a large part in 4oD’s growth, with views of Channel 4 programmes rising 160 per cent year-on-year. Among Sky customers, meanwhile, 4oD views more than doubled in 2014.
Channel 4 News saw also significant uplift in video consumption, with total video views up more than 200 per cent on last year’s total. (Monthly unique visitors to the Channel 4 News website were up 73 per cent year-on-year.)
Focus on data pays off
Channel 4, as we have reported before, is keenly aware of the importance of data. That focus has seen 11.3 million users sign up to a Channel 4 account, giving 4oD and the broadcaster’s websites a userbase that includes half of all 16-34 year olds in the UK.
Of those 11.3 million users, 4.5 million are active at least once every three months – and Channel 4 is already beginning to use their data to fuel its advertising.
In 2014, Channel 4 began to integrate specific viewing behaviour data into its outbound communications – for example, emails – making them more relevant to the viewer. Programmatic trading of Channel 4’s VOD inventory was announced earlier this year too, making them the first broadcaster in the UK to sell targeted online advertising to its users.
“We have started to optimise digital promotional airtime on 4oD,” says the Annual Report. “Previously, online video inventory used basic targeting; now
we are using data to make smarter decisions e.g. promoting Utopia to viewers of similar shows like Black Mirror and Complicit or promoting Utopia to viewers of Nathan Barley or promoting The Mill to viewers of Benefits Britain 1949.”
This targeting has helped to drive digital advertising revenue up 13 per cent in the past year. Overall, online revenues grew to £63 million in 2014 (up from £61 million in 2013). Channel 4 forecasts this to rise to £100 million by 2018.