Channel 4’s IT department will see its IT budget increase this year, following a successful year for advertising revenue.
“We had a very good year in 2011, so we are in a position to invest,” said CIO Kevin Gallagher. “And we have an opportunity to get good value because other people will not be investing.”
A priority for Channel 4 is to develop data analytics technology to forge closer links with viewers and to better understand their viewing habits, Gallagher said in an interview to accompany the 2012 Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT priorities survey.
“We are doing more work on analytics to understand user behaviour, so that we have more to offer to advertisers,” said Gallagher.
The broadcaster plans to introduce premium content on its website that will encourage viewers to register their details in return for a more personalised service.
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“It will offer more personalisation, and recommendations that are more relevant to what they have watched. That is the big theme for the end of the year,” he said.
In particular, Gallagher is looking at the Hadoop open source big data platform as a way of analysing how viewers interact with Channel 4’s website.
“That will be a big learning curve for us, for analysing web data. There are hundreds of millions of video views every year, and we want to start analysing how people are behaving,” he said.
Two screens are better than one
Research shows that people don’t watch TV in isolation. Quite often they will have an iPad or a mobile phone in their hands.
We are doing more work on analytics to understand user behaviour
Kevin Gallagher, CIO, Channel 4
Channel 4 wants to capitalise on this by developing applications that people can use as they watch TV. “We are looking at play-along games,” he said.
The broadcaster, rolled out its 4OD video on-demand service to the Xbox, iPhone and iPad last year.
This year, Channel 4, working with other broadcasters, plans to launch YouView, a set-top box that will combine Freeview with video on-demand and a personal video recorder, another major IT challenge.
Channel 4 is also busy gearing up to broadcast the Paralympics later this year, and that will impact on the IT department.
“There will certainly be a lot of support from IT, and innovation as well,” said Gallagher. “We are looking at opportunities around open source, cost-effectiveness, and freeing up funds to use elsewhere.”
The IT department will also play an important role in advising the business on future research technology trends.
“There has been a lot of talk about internet-connected TVs and what they mean. That is a challenge for us, because there is no standardisation there,” he said. “We will be looking at which are the most popular.”
In particular, Channel 4 wants to work out what the convergence between the internet and television will mean for advertising. Gallagher said this is a project that will run over several years.