Channel 4 in the United Kingdom is to launch an all new digital-first brand, Channel 4.0. It is aimed at young viewers aged 13-24 and will be available on YouTube and social media. Channel 4.0 says it will be a platform for the next generation of stars. Channel 4 is approaching the big 4-0 as it prepares to celebrate four decades since it launched as an alternative challenger channel in an era when a choice of viewing meant watching either the BBC or ITV.
Sacha Khari, head of digital commissioning at Channel 4, said: “Channel 4.0 marks a new era for Channel 4 and is another significant piece of the Future4 strategy. Not only will Channel 4.0 be a place where established stars come to spread joy, genius and a bit of chaos, we’ll be scouting for the next generation of talent — creating opportunity both in front and behind the camera. We want to collaborate, elevate and enrich the great content already happening in this space, giving creators funding and another platform to authentically showcase their brilliance.”
The digital offering is led by 4Studio, the social side of Channel 4, which produces and partners with creators across the United Kingdom.
Matt Risley, the managing director of 4Studio, said: “Channel 4.0 is a hugely exciting addition to our impactful social portfolio, offering new, exciting and rambunctious ways to reach and engage young audiences with content and creators that really resonate with them.
Channel 4 has partnered with the Big Smoke Corporation, which is described as a ‘launch consultant’ to ensure that young audiences are authentically engaged and excited about the channel.
Big Smoke Corporation was founded earlier in the year by Joseph Adenuga, otherwise known as Skepta, a pioneer of Grime music. He said: “It is important that the next generation of creators are provided the space to innovate and ideate in an uncompromising style.”
Among the slated shows is Driven, an interview series based on a go-kart track, fronted by the rapper Rhys Sylvester, otherwise known as Mist.
Channel 4 seems to be following in the footsteps of BBC 3, aimed at 16-34-year-olds, which launched as a television channel in 2003 and went online only in 2016. That online experiment was widely seen as a failure and BBC 3 returned as a television channel in February 2022.
There is an argument that in order to remain relevant broadcasters need to follow their viewers. Yet those that are already watching online videos on YouTube have almost unlimited choice, which may make it difficult for traditional broadcasters to find an audience.
On the verge of turning 40, Channel 4, which once pioneered ‘yoof’ television, wants to be seen as down on the street with the cool kids. The difference is that today anyone with a phone can have their own YouTube channel. Being represented on mainstream television is still a challenge. The success of Channel 4.0 may be measured in the extent to which it leads to fresh faces and new formats on its traditional channels.
The future of Channel 4 remains in the air, as political uncertainty clouds previously announced plans to privatise the state-owned broadcaster. The current culture minister, Michelle Donelan, appears less adamant about selling off Channel 4 but the political climate and financial headwinds remain changeable.