Channel 4 to launch new streaming formats and consider lighter ad loads

C4 to launch new streaming formats and consider lighter ad loads
'Married At First Sight UK' drove Channel 4's biggest streaming audience in October (Picture: Channel 4)

Channel 4 intends to launch solus takeovers and ‘lite’ ads that feature within shorter ad breaks on its video-on-demand service.

Next year’s launch follows a live trial which involved thousands of registered Channel 4 streaming users and is credited with delivering a boost in effectiveness.

The formats used in the trial, which featured ads from 15 brands, delivered an 81% boost in long-term brand recall, Channel 4 said.


Solus: advertiser is the only ad in the pre-roll, plus the first ad in mid-programme ad breaks.

Channel 4 said this format returned a 73% increase in brand recall immediately after exposure, compared with exposure to a regular ad break, and an 81% increase in brand recall several days after exposure.

Lite: advertiser will run in breaks that are limited to 60 seconds.

Channel 4 said this boosts brand recall by 44% and a 23% increase in brand affinity, compared with exposure to a regular ad break.

Further underlining viewer support for Channel 4’s streaming innovation, nine in 10 Channel 4 viewers said that short breaks are memorable and effective, with just over half (55%) less likely to avoid the new ad formats. Meanwhile, 54% of viewers said they pay more attention to the new takeover ad breaks.

‘Stand out’ and ‘all rounders’

The trial is the second stage of a wider project to explore new ad formats and different ad loads around programming. Forty brands have taken part in the whole project so far.

Earlier this year, Channel 4 ran a closed, ‘lab’ trial with selected users. Brands that took part in the experiment reported a 72% increase in ad recall, rising to nearly unanimous (98%) for 16- to 34-year-olds.

That previous trial found that Channel 4’s highest ad loads were found to be 10 times more effective versus the unexposed audience, the broadcaster said. Streaming viewers are “very receptive towards ads” on the platform, it added, with just over a third (36%) feeling they improved the experience which rose to nearly half (46%) for young viewers.

Channel 4’s head of Commercial Innovation and Partners, Jonathan Lewis, said: “Our streaming ad innovation further sets us apart in the industry as we generate the commercial returns from our work to prioritise digital growth and become the UK’s public service streamer.

“Our new ‘Lite’ breaks are great ‘all-rounders’: they enhance ads on all measures: recall, impact on KPIs, and, improve the viewer experience.  Meanwhile ‘Solus’ Spots are great for stand out: they significantly increase recall of a spot.”

‘Market shock territory’

The trial is part of executing Channel 4’s digital-first strategy launched in 2020, Future4, and follows the move this year to bring all Channel 4 services under a single brand across streaming and linear channels.

According to Barb data, Channel 4 recorded its biggest-ever month of streaming in October — including records for a single day’s views — driven by Married at First Sight UK and The Great British Bake Off. The channel registered 6.7 billion viewer minutes in October — the largest since official data was first recorded in November 2021.

However, the broadcaster has faced a tough ad market this year and will consider using an emergency £75m credit facility. Last month CEO Alex Mahon echoed her ITV counterpart Carolyn McCall by describing the UK TV industry as being in its worst advertising downturn in 15 years.

Describing the sector as being in “market shock territory”, Mahon told a Parliament select committee in November that the ad market will slump by 14% this year and Channel 4 would post a loss in each of the next two years. Channel 4 reported a third successive surplus last year.

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