Channel 4 targets TikTok generation with viral videos

Channel 4 is preparing to target the TikTok generation with a new production arm as it fights to remain relevant with younger viewers and “future-proof” the business as ministers prepare for its privatization.

The broadcaster will start making viral video content across social media apps including Snap, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube to bolster its digital advertising income and drive more young people to its catch-up service, All4.

The unit forms part of an expansion of 4Studio, a digital creative arm that is one of the driving forces behind its strategy to wean Channel 4 off traditional TV advertising in favor of doubling All 4’s audience and securing 30pc of sales from digital ads.

While the station is not allowed to make its own shows under rules laid down by Margaret Thatcher’s government to support the UK production industry, the broadcaster can make short creative videos to reach younger viewers through social media.

Matt Risley, the managing director of 4Studio, said the production unit will be creating content that ranges between six to 60 seconds.

He said: “We will be producing small, reactive, ephemeral content to try to harness the conversation that is going on through social media.

“That is very different from a 60-minute scripted drama being commissioned for TV. The intention of 4Studio is future-proof ourselves and have a bit of our company that is able to react to conversation happening day in day out on social apps.

“The insight of what is working with social audiences, and how to reach them, is only going to funnel out to digital commissioning briefs that go out to indies.”

Alex Mahon, chief executive, has been racing to make Channel 4 a “digital first” broadcaster through its on-demand streaming service, All 4, after its finances were crunched during the pandemic following a sharp downturn in TV broadcasting.

Channel 4 launched 4Studio to support the growth of All 4, which has attracted registrations from 80pc of all 16 to 34-year-olds and increased streaming views by 26pc to 1.25bn in 2020.

The unit has already been commissioning digital content targeting young audiences, from branded videos sponsored by advertisers to original content that airs first on social media.

Its exclusive commissions include Celebrity Rebrand, a series in which YouTube comedian Amelia Dimoldenberg overhauls the images of celebrities including Jimmy Carr and Clare Balding, so they are fit for the digital age.

Mr Risley said the work of 4Studio productions would take inspiration from viral hit-makers, who find trends on the internet, come up with a creative idea, before scripting, shooting, editing and publishing within a couple of hours.

It comes as Channel 4’s privatization is expected to begin next year, with a sale likely to be completed by early 2024 at a price tag of around £1bn.

However, the Government is facing a significant political backlash from opposition parties and its own backbenchers. The House of Lords is expected to attempt to stall government efforts to sell the channel in the hope that it can be delayed until the next election.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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