Channel 4 has said it will be the only UK broadcaster to offer advertisers a slate of social-first branded entertainment opportunities as it officially launches its newest division, 4Studio, which is based in Leeds.
The offering, previously known as the Digital Creative Unit, includes a commercial division that Channel 4 said would be tasked with "looking to optimise Channel 4’s unique appeal with 16- to 34-year-old viewers across social platforms, with a bespoke social branded entertainment offer – giving youth-focused brands the opportunity to reach this premium audience at scale".
This operation will be led by Jonathan Lewis, head of digital and partnership innovation. Lewis will work alongside branded entertainment and creative leader Sophie Lloyd, who joined from Mother earlier this year, and Matt Ford, 4Studio commercial lead, who is a former commercial director at Unilad – one of the youth-focused digital publishers with which Channel 4 aims to go head to head.
Lewis, Lloyd and Ford are working with the broadcaster’s digital commissioning team and production partners to develop a selection of genre-specific formats aimed at young audiences, who are increasingly difficult to reach through linear TV.
Data from the start of 2019 showed a major year-on-year decline in the number of TV ads seen by 16- to 34-year-old viewers. Although there is evidence that TV viewing – along with some other forms of media consumption – has increased substantially in the past two months as people have been largely confined to their homes, it remains to be seen whether this will impact the long-term trend once the UK emerges from lockdown.
However, Channel 4 said it reached more than 100 million Facebook users in the past month, including 81% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 74% of those aged 25-34 in the UK. It also achieved more than 800 million YouTube impressions during the same time. Its youth-focused factual strand True Stories has reached more than 46 million views across the two platforms since launching in February.
Lloyd said: "We’re really proud to be the first broadcaster to be able to offer brands the opportunity to reach our premium youth audiences with meaningful, editorially relevant content for social, either engaging brands with our slate of formats or responding to briefs with bespoke content ideas."