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Channel 4 on the importance of curation and partnerships

Channel 4's Richard David-Houston
Channel 4's Richard David-Houston speaking at the Connected TV World Summit, 2019
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The importance of curation and scheduling and the benefits of partnering with niche verticals were highlighted by Channel 4’s Richard Davidson-Houston at Connected TV World Summit yesterday.

Delivering a keynote titled ‘How established media owners will maintain audiences in the age of hyper-competition’, the head of Channel 4’s All 4 on-demand service ran through an A-Z of ideas.

Stressing the importance of curation, Davidson-Houston said that familiarity, rather than new content, is both the biggest driver of viewers’ intention to watch and an enormous challenge, noting that boxsets are important for driving retention as viewers become invested in completing series.

He also claimed that linear scheduling remains “the most important recommendation engine in all of media” and is something that has a huge impact on the consumption of on-demand video.

“Partnering with niche verticals can bring new audiences to platforms that wouldn’t otherwise have come,” he said, citing Channel 4’s international-focused drama service Walter Presents and its content partnership with Adult Swim.

However, he criticised the industry for being “incredibly bad at reaching out and finding other people around the world” to forge partnerships with.

“I can’t go global, I work for a state-owned commercially-funded broadcaster,” he said. “But we can all go global if we buddy up with other people in other markets.”

In terms of brand building and aggregation, he described the latter as battle between the economic or strategic compulsion of being aggregated by a big tech platform and the difficulty of making a brand cut through in that environment.

For smaller brands to continue to have meaning in an online world populated by tech giants, he said they must be “amphibious,” able to be at home in linear, over-the-top, social and even areas like podcasting.

YouTube is a marketing platform and a “means to an end” for broadcasters, according to Davidson-Houston. “It’s a confusing means to an end because often that marketing takes the form of publishing content and sometimes we monetise the content.”

Elsewhere, Davidson-Houston was critical of paying too much credence to ‘HiIPPOS’, an acronym that means the “highest paid person’s opinion,” or people that base their strategic thinking on their own children’s media consumption.

Experimentation was deemed important, with companies encouraged to “play like a jazz band” by innovating and taking risks. However, virtual reality was dismissed as “basically a distraction” and “nothing to do with broadcasting”.

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