Disruption Can Be TV’s Saviour says UK Boss

Disruption Can Be TV’s Saviour says UK Boss

Great content will always remain the key to success on commercial TV but data is going to give it one hell of a kick along argues Gill Whitehead from the UK’s Channel 4.

John Bastick
Posted by John Bastick

Whitehead, who is the station’s director of audience technologies and insight, was in Sydney last week presenting as the Broadcasting Digital Media Summit.

When it comes to collating and effectively using data in commercial TV, Channel 4 are regarded as one of the world leaders and Whitehead revealed the station already has over 12 million registered users.

Gill Whitehead

The government-owned but paid advertising station can also boast that half of all 16-24 year olds in the UK have registered.

“Today our data scientists analyse viewing habits and viewing contexts using behavioural predictable mediums,” Whitehead said. “This helps us map connections that may not be otherwise be found. That enables us to find interest groups and generate program recommendations for example that aren’t always obvious and allow for serendipity.”

The collated data, said Whitehead, enabled Channel 4 to do anything from target its audiences with programs and advertising, research potential new shows, send targeted emails and competitions, right through to programming.

“The personalisation of audience will never change the power of a great program to move an audience, or the social, rhythmic nature of television but it creates something fresh and energetic,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead also had some unkind words for tech firms telling TV companies how to do their jobs. “When a technology company talks about disruption in a television company it can be frustrating,” she said. “Their success in consumer electronics doesn’t mean they’re experts in TV, as much as they’re experts in sofas because viewers sit on them while watching TV.

“But by embracing the disruptive opportunities by changing behaviour, by using data to get closer to your viewers, by respectfully steering individuals to programs that they will love we can use disruption to delight them even more,” she said.