Channel Four in the United Kingdom is reported to be preparing a subscription version without adverts of its online video service All 4, to be known as All 4+. It reflects a similar move by ITV, with its ITV Hub+ offering. Converting online viewers to subscribers remains a challenge.
All 4+ will be tested with users in December, allowing subscribers to view the service without adverts for a payment of £3.99 a month. It will initially be available only on the web. Further development will be based on an evaluation of the user response.
Channel Four reported that All 4 had 16.6 million registered viewers at the end of 2017, up from 14.9 million the previous year. It generated 720 million views in 2017, compared to 620 million the previous year and 512 million the year before that.
That works out at less than one view a week per registered viewer.
A glance at BARB viewing figures shows that online audiences make up only a small proportion of viewers.
Even with its most popular programme, The Great British Bake Off, which had a total 7 day audience of 10.34 million, only 400,000 watched on a computer, tablet or smartphone. Its next most popular programme, Gogglebox, had a television audience of 3.77 million, with only 70,000 watching on other screens. On the E4 channel, Made in Chelsea attracted a total audience of 1.07 million, of which 190,000 watched online, or around 18% of those that watched the programme.
The £3.99 a month price point is the same as for the advertising free subscription service ITV Hub+, launched by the main commercial broadcaster at the end of 2016.
On demand programming on the ITV Hub+ subscription service is available for viewing anywhere within European Union countries, for the moment at least. Programmes can also be downloaded to view offline on Apple iOS devices. Live channels are only available within the United Kingdom and still contain advertisements.
Earlier in the year ITV reported that it plans to make more of its subscription service, claiming that people are willing to pay for high-quality British television that they can watch on their terms, without adverts.
It said: “Over the next three years our goal is to increase registered users from 25 million to 30 million. We will also aim to increase our monthly active users to increase reach, engagement and frequency.”
ITV Hub helps the broadcaster reach younger audiences. It claims that 75% of 16-24 year olds in the country are registered.
While ITV Hub can claim 25 million registered users, it had only 286,000 paying subscribers at the end of June 2018. That represents annual revenue of about £13.7 million, which is only a drop in the bucket of total revenues.
ITV reported direct to consumer revenues of £41 million for the first six months of 2018, compared to £29 million for the same period the previous year. That includes competitions, voting, live events, subscription video and pay-per-view. It represents just under 4% of its total revenue.
While a number of British broadcasters have been talking about a joint online video platform, no news has emerged of such a collaboration, which is challenging given their different structures and objectives.
Over 11 million households in the United Kingdom, or 39% of homes, have at least one of either a Netflix, Amazon or NOW TV subscription, as reported by the BARB Establishment Survey. Ofcom reports that 34% of adults in the United Kingdom use an online video subscription service, compared to 35% for the public service broadcaster online video services.