So, it's really happening. After months of talk, a major broadcaster has actually committed to rolling out programmatic video for its live streaming and catch-up service. Okay -- so it's not right
here and now, because the All4 service will launch next year, but Channel 4 has made the first major announcement, and that's pretty exciting.
The interesting part is that it didn't have to invent any new tools -- it has partnerships in place with AOL's Adap.tv, as well as Videology and TubeMogul. All it has had to do is take the massive data banks it has been collating from its 11m subscribers and add that insight to some programmatic buying technology and ad-serving tools and then, Bob is your proverbial uncle.
There is not yet a firm date for All4 to replace 4OD, but the broadcaster has already announced it has P&G, Baileys, Missguided, Very and Rightmove signed up. So clearly, there are some big brands who want to change the way television advertising works for them. Rather than rely solely on the same advertisement appearing on everyone's television set, regardless of who is watching, they want to buy viewers individually, based on what Channel 4 knows about them. Rightmove may well want to reach people whose online behaviour and viewing profile suggest they are thinking of moving home, while Very will likely want to reach their core clothes-buying female audience rather than middle-aged men who are unlikely to convert.
The really interesting part is what isn't in the announcement. I rather suspect a lot of this has everything to do with Channel 4's prized possession - it's huge with teens and people in their twenties. Okay, I'll say it -- everyone's favourite buzzword: millennials. People may have wondered why the channel often appeared to be more MTV than Channel 4 at the weekend -- a stark departure from Homeland new episodes and endless Frasier repeats, but it kind of all makes sense now.
Let's not forget that All4 will offer live streaming of Channel 4's service, and so will not just be about catch up -- i.e., 4OD. Young people are increasingly taking to tablets, laptops and smartphones to watch television for live tv as well as the traditional mainstay of catching up on a missed show. No other age group is time-shifting their viewing away from live tv shows, broadcast when they're out with friends, or to chill out winding down afternoons, as much as millennials.
If you have that audience and you can target them individually, then you have digital marketing gold. The online experience is often a more personal one too. So you can pretty much tell that you're focussing budget on reaching the right person and not wasting it on the rest of a household who are reading a book or putting on the kettle while someone else's show plays.
How soon will it catch on? Well, Channel 4 has already gone on record with the prediction that half of the advertisements sold on its All4 service will be delivered programmatically by 2016. I have to be honest, I think that may be a little modest.
There is no area under so much fire by digital marketing gurus to get its act together as television. The huge FMCG companies are dialling down their investments in television because it's expensive, inflexible, requires long lead times and then reports back through data based on just 1,000 households.
So the more you think about it, the more programmatic tv just has to work. Moving from solely buying slots months in advance to making decisions in micro seconds just has to appeal to modern marketers who are data-driven and don't feel they need to build a career on solely having their advertisements seen during "Coronation Street" or "The X Factor."
Programmatic is coming to television. I'm excited, the big brands are excited, and so is Channel 4. It has some great shows and documentaries that us middle-aged people love to catch up on -- but perhaps more importantly, it's got the millennials.
So make no mistake. This is big news.