Channel 4 Launches US FAST Channels in Digital Advertising Push

Dan Meier 05 September, 2023 

Channel 4 has launched two free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels in the US, marking the UK broadcaster’s first foray into international markets on connected TV. The channels, 4 Adventure and 4 Emergency, will be available on the US streaming services Tubi, Plex and Xumo Play.

4 Adventure features reality and documentary programmes with a survival focus, such as Shipwrecked and The Island With Bear Grylls. The programming on 4 Emergency is centred around emergency services, including 24 Hours In A&E and Emergency Helicopter Medics.

Technical delivery is provided by Amagi, a content distribution specialist; Broadcast Intelligence, a TV development platform; and Gracenote, which supplies content metadata. The broadcaster suggested there would be further FAST partnerships with more platforms announced later in the year.

“Launching our first ever international channels is a pivotal moment for Channel 4 and opens up a huge range of exciting possibilities,” said Alex Wall, Head of Streaming Editorial, UK & International at Channel 4. “These channels will introduce US audiences to popular shows that embody our core brand values, bringing Channel 4’s unique tone of voice and our rich British culture to the US FAST market.”

Into the FAST lane

Channel 4’s FAST moves are designed to freshen its revenue streams, as the commercial broadcaster attempts to distance itself from reliance on linear TV advertising. The company’s revenues fell 2 percent YoY in 2022, against a tough advertising market and declining linear viewing. According to Barb, Channel 4’s linear viewership was around half that of commercial rival ITV last year.

As a result, Channel 4 has been busily expanding its digital offering. In 2022, digital advertising accounted for 22 percent of total revenues, and the company aims to increase this to 30 percent by 2025. FAST channels fit that objective by serving ad-receptive streaming audiences, particularly in the US where FAST viewership has seen rapid growth. Last year, Hub Entertainment Research found that 55 percent of US consumers use at least one FAST service, such as Pluto TV, Tubi or Freevee.

The strategy also aligns with Channel 4’s plans to cut back on content spending. FAST channels are relatively inexpensive for a broadcaster, as the content is repurposed from linear channels, enabling programming that may have been costly to produce to continue being monetised. Last month Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon revealed that the broadcaster had cut its content spend over the past six months, after spending a record £713 million in 2022.

The US FAST channels allow Channel 4 to export its existing series, and attract spend from US advertisers. With US production stalled due to the ongoing writers strike, the arrival of British content could prove attractive to advertisers looking to spend on CTV.

“It also provides a great opportunity to further diversify our revenue streams, and with more deals in the pipeline, we’re really excited about this new chapter for Channel 4,” said Channel 4’s Alex Wall.

Going social

Meanwhile the company has been positioning itself as a digital-first broadcaster, renaming its BVOD service Channel 4, and launching its Channel 4.0 brand on YouTube and social media platforms. The broadcaster makes full-length shows available on its YouTube channels, and creates branded content through its digital content division 4Studio.

And last month Channel 4.0 ventured into e-commerce territory, partnering with US cosmetics brand e.l.f for a branded series called Ready or Not?!. Channel 4 said shoppable links will appear alongside each episode, enabling viewers to purchase products as they appear in the show. Additional content will also run across Channel 4.0’s Instagram and TikTok accounts, according to the company.

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