Cloud computing, Hadoop data management, mobile devices and improving broadband access are converging as the challenges and opportunities for CIOs. These technologies all correlate to one another and it is the users, both as customers and within the enterprise that are creating the challenge and the opportunity for CIOs. This can be clearly seen in broadcasting and earlier this year CIO caught up with Channel 4 CIO Kevin Gallagher to discuss what the plotline of this story would be.
Channel 4 launched onto the UK media scene on November 2, 1982 and in the last 30 years it has carved itself a well-respected niche with viewers and advertisers. The latter is important, although a public service broadcaster like the BBC, Channel 4 is completely commercially funded, largely though advertising, but also rights sales, DVD and other smaller income streams. Advertising revenue mean the last few years have been tough, as they have for all advertising funded media organisations.
Channel 4 is famed for its boldness and investment in content and despite a tough marketplace, the organisation has continued the same boldness towards its technology strategy under CIO Gallagher (pictured).
“We must keep the core channel and content strong and everything else builds on that,” Gallagher says of the business strategy. Technologically that means that Gallagher and his team have to ensure that Channel 4 supports multi-platform media and he says its 4OD on demand service is performing well on games consoles for example. Channel 4 doesn’t produce content in the way the BBC does, but has a commissioning model that has enabled the UK’s independent television production marketplace to become an important pillar of the UK creative economy. Gallagher says that commissioning model now extends beyond television content into online material and applications to ensure the Channel 4 brand has that edgy and creative feel to it no matter the access route to it.
“It is a very exciting place to work. One of the key things about Channel 4 is that everyone here expects to succeed. All eyes are on success, so no energy is wasted on politics. You have a very clear goal and that brings on the challenges.”
As it matures to a 30 year-old it can at least look at 2012 knowing that its coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games was highly successful, further enhanced the channel’s brand name for edginess – think of those bold trailers and adverts of being superhuman – and that its place in the hearts of viewers is healthy.
“My challenge is to build on the core platform while keeping the cost of diversity down,” he says of the multiplatform media challenge. The holy-grail for Channel 4 is a single platform that carries content from commissioning to play out.
“The television programme is the core of the system,” he says of the importance to focus on the product not a technology. “Allocated to that are digital rights, commissioning details for play on different distribution media and there may even be different versions for pre- or post-watershed.
“With our US content Flash and iPad versions need very strict digital rights management (DRM) as the US studios are very keen on keeping DRM strong and we have to protect that very very seriously,” he says.
The recent trends in technology development have been a major help to Gallagher, especially technologies such as cloud computing when it comes to delivering video on demand.
“If you have your own infrastructure sooner or later you have to say no,” he says of the freedom cloud computing has given him to say yes when producers or channel heads see a potential spike in demand coming or an opportunity to offer additional media interaction with consumers.