Channel 4 puts streaming first in Netflix fightback

Ben Woods
·2-min read
Channel 4 broadcasts The Great British Bake Off
Channel 4 broadcasts The Great British Bake Off

Channel 4 will put streaming ahead of television broadcasting in a bid to secure its future against the American tech giants and renewed privatisation pressure. 

Chief executive Alex Mahon plans to prioritise its on-demand platform All 4 over its terrestrial channels to keep step with younger viewers as they shift towards streaming. 

The Great British Bake Off broadcaster said it will fund more "noisy documentaries" and dramas for younger viewers geared towards binge-watching, releasing them through its on-demand platform first before they air on TV. 

The move forms a key plank of a five-year strategy to wean Channel 4 off a dependency on traditional TV advertising by doubling All 4's audience, securing 30pc of revenues from digital advertising and 10pc from non-advertising streams.

It comes amid a turbulent backdrop for the state-owned broadcaster, which was forced into emergency cost-cutting during the pandemic when its advertising income plunged. 

Ministers have also been weighing whether it should be sold as part of a review of public service broadcasting amid fears its business model will struggle to survive the soaring popularity of services such as Netflix and Disney +.

Ms Mahon said: "We think it is time for us [to shift to digital first] ahead of the others because we have a younger audience. It doesn't mean we abandon linear. It's a really good business model and valuable for many years to come. 

"But it does mean we will make choices that prioritise digital when it comes to types of shows, windowing the shows and how we monetise them. That is a big switch."

Channel 4 plans to secure more advertising through Sky's AdSmart platform, a technology for targeting live TV viewers with adverts based on their location, job or gender. 

A new digital content studio based in its national headquarters in Leeds has been set up to bring in funds through partnerships with social media platforms. The broadcaster will also accelerate the roll-out of All 4+, the ad-free version costing £3.99 a month. 

Meanwhile, Channel 4 has launched a £30m fund to invest in new British shows that have the potential to appeal to overseas broadcasters and streaming platforms. 

Ian Katz, director of programmes, said the push towards streaming meant it would commission fewer one-off dramas and "specialist factual" programmes that skew towards and older audience and do not perform well on All 4.