Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Turning viewers into ad assets

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast October 25, 2012

C4 is leading the way with online data collection, says Kate Bulkley

What do data scientists, the Stand Up To Cancer campaign and Clare Balding have in common?

The answer is that they are all part of how C4 is making good on its deep dive into collecting viewer data directly from its audience. C4ís registered on-demand users recently topped 5.5 million and the pace of sign-up has surprised even C4 bigwigs. Registration gives viewers free access to an online archive and benefits such as tickets to last weekís Stand Up To Cancer telethon. And with 60% of 4oDís catch-up viewing coming via registrations, C4 is gaining lots of insight into who is watching what and when.

But whatís really engaging its sales division is that one in three of the UKís 16 to 24 year-olds Ė arguably the hottest demographic for advertisers Ė are registered with 4oD. Thatís why C4 has been doing something rather unusual for a broadcaster over the past few months. Itís been hiring data scientists, with degrees in things like behavioural analytics, and refugees from hedge funds, where data crunching is central.

These guys are tasked with explaining how to translate C4ís data for its advertisers, who dine out on socioeconomic groups, household status and behavioural segmentation. Doubters will say that 97% of all viewing is still offline, but some C4 shows, such as New Girl, achieve a full 30% of their audience online.

This stuff is so far advanced from figures produced by Barb that itís almost laughable. C4 recently stopped allowing people to register via Facebook because the broadcaster realised that control of this data is the new gold. Why share it with Facebook? The pay-platform guys have been riding the data train for a while now, hence part of C4ís recent deal to put 4oD on Skyís on-demand platform included gaining access to some of Skyís viewer data.

C4 is starting to behave like mature internet players such as Google, and because its demographic is the young, early adopter, it is likely to see an earlier benefit than fellow commercial broadcaster ITV.

Of course, the hard part is still to come: there needs to be sense made out of the data so it can make money. C4 is already experimenting with new advertising formats, both for online and its linear channels.

Earlier this month, it held a blind auction for packages of ad spots and dual-screen advertising to sit against its expanded horse-racing coverage, which will be fronted by Clare Balding next year.

C4ís on-demand programming already has ad pause (a static ad that comes on screen when a viewer hits the pause button when watching online) and ad elect (choosing the ad you want to watch) and there are a dozen trials under way with advertisers that link C4ís data with behavioural targeting and things such as synchronised messaging.

C4 is also expected to unveil second-screen ad formats at the channelsí advertising upfronts in November.

And if all that doesnít convince you that registered online viewers are important for C4, hereís one more fact: 40% of people who have registered say they are watching more C4 content. Itís great to know whoís watching what; even more reassuring to know theyíre watching more.

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