C4 plans new programmes for video-on-demand service

Channel 4 will commission original programmes to run across its multi-channel video-on-demand (VOD) service, which is scheduled to launch later this year.

Chief executive Andy Duncan revealed the first details of the widely touted service exclusively to Marketing Week, following the broadcaster’s publication of record results yesterday (Tuesday).

Duncan also says the broadcaster is looking at launching further “transactional” channels (shopping and quiz channels) to add to its QuizCall. Last week the Treasury said it would examine the regulation of such channels, after receiving complaints from organisations such as the Gambling Commission, sparked by the high profile launch of ITV Play last week.

The 4 On Demand service will have “four-strands” encompassing commissioned content, such as drama and documentary; the best of acquired programming; film; and music. It will run across cable and broadband television and PC platforms. FilmFour VOD channels will offer download films for sale or rent, while the 4Music brand, which plays across the channel portfolio, will change to an on-demand service.

Duncan also reiterates Channel 4’s commitment to public service broadcasting, and its need for “indirect” financial help for the transition to digital, saying it remains the only credible public service competition for the BBC.

He says 2006 is shaping up even better than last year, but warns: “The pace of change in broadcasting is dynamic. The reality is that although 4 is a credible brand for the changing world, and one with a good relationship with younger audiences, if we don’t get in [to VOD] now, in two or three years it will be too late.”

The Channel 4 Report and Financial Statements for 2005 shows the broadcaster recorded a profit after tax of &£48.5m during 2005, up from &£44.6m in 2004. Group turnover grew &£53m – 6% – to &£894m.

The launch of More4 in October and the move of E4 to the Freeview platform last May helped increase multi-channel revenues by &£11m to &£88m. Duncan hopes moving FilmFour to Freeview will bring similar dividends in 2006. He is also keen to develop “user generated content” across its Web properties, and says Channel 4 is in talks about bidding for the UK’s third multiplex which, if successful, could see services starting from 2008.

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