Time for C4 to do the Shuffle
By Kate Bulkley
For Broadcast February 02, 2012
Service should benefit viewers and boost revenue, says Kate Bulkley.
There are no truly brand-spanking new ideas in the world, right? Even in TV, which boasts about its high levels of creativity, many ‘new’ ideas are really just dusted-off old stuff dressed up as innovation.
So it’s easy to dismiss Channel 4’s idea for a linear catch-up channel, tentatively named Shuffle, as another tired attempt to bring in new viewers for old rope.
However, let’s look at this particular piece of old rope. C4 has to answer to a high-minded remit of doing extraordinary things all the time. It can be an uncomfortable place to sit, especially when a once cool idea such as Big Brother ages into a tired but profitable piece of formula TV. But I digress.
According to my sources, the Shuffle plan is still not fully formed and C4 needs to do much more R&D on how it might be branded and exactly what content it will offer.
But the idea of extending the first TX window for the best programmes of the past week seems to me a creative twist deserving of a closer look.
In this year of big events, with the BBC airing both the Olympics and the Queen’s jubilee, and sharing the World Cup with ITV, this creative approach by C4 to squeeze more juice out of what it does have (including the Paralympics) doesn’t look so daft.
In fact, what better way to battle its rivals than for C4 to set up a new channel that just happens to be highly desirable to both viewers and advertisers?
Any media agency or broadcast TV sales department will tell you that VoD is nice but is still far from packing the punch of the linear TV schedule. And although YouView is coming this summer (fingers crossed), consumer behaviour won’t change overnight.
Crucially, the Shuffle idea is far from being a simple +1 channel; instead, it would extend the first and most lucrative transmission, and give the best of the C4 schedule a little more room to breathe.
If C4 does it right, it won’t just be about replaying the most highly rated C4 shows. These programmes will be there, of course, but Shuffle should also be about showcasing programmes that fire up the social media world.
In planning its schedule, the new linear channel could also leverage insights gleaned from 4oD behaviour and from the 2 million viewers already signed up to C4’s new ‘relationship management platform’ for its biggest fans.
There will be costs, with EPG positions and platform carriage agreements to work out and pay for, but essentially, if Shuffle sits somewhere between C4 and 4oD, it becomes a well-informed, hybrid proposition that could help ad sales director Jonathan Allan boost commercial impacts and give Jay Hunt a second shot at showcasing her best stuff on a linear channel.
This is taking old rope and making a lasso, both to capture more advertising inventory around popular shows and to offer C4 audiences – especially those who might not have watched the first airing of a show – another chance to view them as they are meant to be seen: on the biggest screen in the house, commonly called the TV.
In a recessionary year, that is the kind of old rope that looks pretty good to me.