Alex Wright, Channel 4: “Deliver what the viewers want”

“Deliver what the viewers want”

As the media landscape continues to evolve, so does consumer behavior. To meet the changing needs of consumers, companies are constantly innovating. One of the many spaces where we are currently seeing some exciting changes is CTV.

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum's VP, Corporate Marketing, Ben Cicchetti, sat down with Alex Wright, Programmatic & Platform Leader at Channel 4, to discuss CTV, retail media, data collaboration, and more.

“We were so excited to launch this product with InfoSum, using a data clean room for the first time. [...] We realized that we had 30 million registered users and all of the registration details and all of their behaviors on our platform. We had all of that information and using a data clean room, we invited advertisers to bring their own first-party data to match with our 30 million users so that they could target their customers on our platform. So that's what BRANDMA4TCH was when we launched it.”

Since launching in early 2020, Channel 4 has evolved the BRANDMATCH product, but also diversified into other data-driven advertising solutions.

“We've really fine-tuned that offering. The offering is still the same as what we launched back in March 2020 but we really streamlined things like our timelines. We brought it back from what could be a couple of months to now a couple of weeks to turn around a campaign. We streamlined the legal requirements, the paperwork. We worked with InfoSum to really help advertisers understand that process is not as challenging as some people thought it might be. [...] It has evolved in many different ways, and then the success of BRANDMATCH has paved the way for our even more successful product launch since then which is RETAIL.”

Channel 4 was early to recognize that there was immense value in the convergence of CTV and Retail, leading them to launch their RETAIL product in early 2023 alongside one of the UK’s largest loyalty card programs, Nectar 360. Interestingly, it wasn’t just market foresight that drove this launch, it was advertiser demand. 

“When we launched BRANDMATCH, and we took it out to market, we had loads of brands that were super interested, but some brands and one of our biggest verticals was FMCG clients who didn't have their own first-party data, so they approached us really wanting to get involved in some kind of data pairing relationship, and that's where we realized there are opportunities with the different retailers and their loyalty programs. So the first partnership we went into was with Nectar 360, and what we did was we matched their millions of loyal loyalty card customers with our 30 million registered users, and we created hundreds of segments immediately.”

The new solution RETAIL offers FMCG/CPG clients access to shopper segments from some of the UK's biggest retailers, such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Boots, for both targeting and measurement via InfoSum. We’ve already seen amazing results, for example, with Channel 4 and Nectar 360.

Channel 4 continues to drive change across the BVOD and wider CTV space. With a keen eye on the future, it is also revolutionizing the way that it works. Earlier this year, Channel 4 announced Fast Forward as part of their digital-first strategy.

“In 2020, we announced our Future 4 strategy, and that strategy was for the first time ever that we were going to prioritize the growth of our digital platform or our VOD platform over linear ratings. So this was quite a big thing for us. It was the first time that we approached the business in that way and we set ourselves some quite ambitious targets then as well. [...] In January this year, we took the next step, which was announcing our Fast Forward strategy, which is supercharging our previous strategy our next ambitious target is that by 2030, at least 50% of all of our revenue will be coming from the digital side of the business.”

The video-on-demand and streaming space is a rapidly evolving space, and Channel 4 plays a critical role as a leading BVOD service, moving the industry forward toward a better future. 

“What I can see is happening in the CTV space and the BVOD space and the growth and how fast it's moving, that's what's really exciting to me. What is very exciting about BVOD is you've got the combination of quality premium content and you've also got scale and the scale is just so significant. And whenever you're wanting to do anything meaningful with data, you really need scale to deliver that and BVOD has that scale. [...] The opportunities with data and the BVOD platforms are kind of endless. We're just continually evolving in that space.”

Lots of excitement ahead. Over the last few years, we've seen more changes within the industry as all the major streaming service providers have moved from what was purely a paid subscription model to offering free or discounted ad-supported plans. 

“I feel that there are several reasons for this shift and that the movement is actually going both ways. [...] I think this is predominantly because we're learning to deliver what the viewers want, so if users want a free ad-supported platform, give them that, if they want an ad-light or an ad-free platform, then also give them that option through subscription. Saying that the shift from SVOD to AVOD is sort of undeniable at the moment.”

It’s so important to listen to what your customers and viewers want. Increasingly, consumer habits have shifted to being streaming-first. In response, it’s critical that businesses adapat to that behavioral change. 

“We're very much watching, especially what younger audiences are doing at the moment because their viewing habits are so different to previous generations that we are approaching this in so many different ways. [...] Younger audiences are going to destinations to watch content that are changing from from how people have in the past. YouTube is undeniably a place where younger viewers go to watch content. So for us to address that, over the last couple of years, we have had just a really strong social strategy.”

Viewing habits are just one part of what’s changing in the industry. With change happening at such a rapid pace, there are boundless opportunities ahead, and we’re excited for what the future holds.

“What I'm really excited about at the moment is the breaking down of barriers. And there's the emergence of these new relationships and partnerships between companies that previously were competitors. And now they're emerging maybe a bit more as frenemies. So you've got these different partnerships taking place, making it that advertisers are getting what they want, viewers are getting what they want, but also both the businesses through this partnership are able to grow.”

Couldn’t agree more. Let’s break down the barriers. Thanks, Alex, for the chat!