Beyond TV

Channel 4 and the multiplatform environment

Discussions about the television industry cannot seem to escape the inundation of buzz terms and the constant search for the ultimate innovation holy grail. Multiplatform, transmedia, cross-media, connected TV, smart TV, hybrid production – these are all words widely being tossed around to describe the present and future transformation of television.

The terms “broadcasting” and “television” seem somewhat outdated as media companies known as “broadcasters” continue to grapple with how to best position themselves, evolve and connect with audiences.

However, it is not only the use of terminology that needs to be reassessed. The creation of audiovisual content from commissioning stage to distribution stage needs to be approached in the light of digital creativity and multiplatform opportunities. How are TV stations responding to change, particularly multiplatform adaptation?

Channel 4 seems to be grabbing the bull by its horns and taking charge in the new online scenario. In a white paper on Channel 4′s multiplatform publishing strategy, Frank Boyd describes the organisation as “the most innovative and adventurous broadcaster in the UK when it comes to experimentation with multiplatform publishing.” In the 2011 Bafta Awards, three of the four projects nominated for Digital Creativity were in fact Channel 4 productions.

But how is Channel 4 managing change? As quoted in the white paper, C4′s head of online Richard Davidson-Houston believes that “companies need to overcome some of the fundamental assumptions embedded in the professional cultures inherent in different sectors to learn a new approach to development and production”. Similarly, in an interview with Power to the Pixel, Louise Brown, multiplatform Commissioning Lead at Channel 4, talks of C4’s particular remit as a public broadcaster and the need for people to interact with broadcast output.

Channel 4 presents an interesting case study on company change and adaptation. The company’s focus is no longer about being a television station but about delivering content with the maximum possible impact. As expressed unapologetically by Davidson-Houston – television is just part of what Channel 4 does.

The Big Fish Fight multiplatform initiative by Channel 4 is great example of a project that uses the interplay of TV and interactive media across multiple platforms to achieve a concrete goal and audience engagement. The project set-out with two sustainability objectives: to end the EU practice of discarding fish and to encourage consumers to opt for a more diverse range of fish. The project reached far and wide with supermarket chains taking concrete action and political debate in the UK Parliament.

Channel 4 is transforming itself to a converged creative business in its quest to be ahead of the game in digital innovation. The organisation’s work is a reminder that transformation and convergence have indeed happened. A ‘wait and see’ strategy is no longer a viable solution and digital opportunities across platforms are up for grabs.


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