Channel 4 is a public service broadcaster which works across television, film and online channels to deliver its content. Owned by the Channel Four Television Corporation and receives no government funding. Its income is generated through advertising and sponsors.
Channel 4 sister channels and brands include More4, Film4, 4seven, E4 and a number of music channels, while its online 4 On Demand service has been popular since its launch in November 2006. CIO Kevin Gallagher explained some of the broadcaster's technology visions with CIO UK at the end of 2012 as the broadcaster turned 30, and also Channel 4's attitude towards the hype around Big Data in July last year.
When did you start your current role?
Have you completed an MBA?
Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:
3. Peer group
Technology strategy and spending
What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
There are several key projects which help us compete in an increasingly complex digital environment. We are developing a brand new Advertising Sales application for the whole of our business. This is to ensure we have the flexibility to support the most innovative Ad Sales team in Broadcasting. This is the biggest software development project ever undertaken by Channel 4.
What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
Channel 4 sell over £1 Billion of TV and digital advertising. As well as our own TV channels we also sell on behalf of other broadcasters such as BT Sport, and UKTV. To maintain our lead in Digital sales and TV sales innovation we need a system which allows us to maximise the opportunities as TV, Online and Mobile advertising converges. This will enable us to maximise revenues while providing a great service to our advertisers.
What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
As well as the deal with NIIT to work with us on the Advertising Sales application we have recently agreed to make a strategic storage acquisition from HP.
Name your strategic technology suppliers?
We partner with a number of suppliers depending on the skills and experience we need to help us meet our goals. We have long term relationships with NIIT, Computacenter, Piksel and Amazon Web Services for cloud technologies.
What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
I aim to help Channel 4 be as competitive as we can in an increasingly competitive world. Technology change in TV is very disruptive to existing business models. This gives us a great opportunity to use our technical skills and expertise to be at the forefront of change. We aim for operational excellence for our viewers, users of our consumer facing applications and internal colleagues and invest in people and tools to make this happen.
Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Technology is a crucial part of Channel 4 transforming from an analogue broadcaster to a truly multi-platform customer centric provider of great content when, where and on whatever device the viewer wants to watch it. As the leader of the IT function I ensure that we drive through this transformation, with speed, quality and innovation at the core of what we do.
Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
During the last few years Channel 4 has launched a Video on Demand Service on 17 different platforms. These include PCs, tablets, smartphones, games consoles and set-top boxes. We now serve over 450 Million views a year of our content on demand. All of these projects have been delivered through my IT team, working with specialist suppliers and innovative technologies where appropriate. This part of our business is profitable and growing. We are often first to market on new platforms, the most recent being 4oD available on the Xbox One launched last December.
Channel 4 Advertising Sales team have transformed into a sales house selling advertising on behalf of 4 major clients including UKTV (Dave, Watch, etc) and BT Sport. This has been enabled by the IT team working hand in hand with our Sales colleagues to put together the bids for the work and follow through with complex technology solutions to implement on time. This has greatly increased our portfolio of channels we can offer to the advertising agency customer while adding to the income of Channel 4.
Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
We have implemented an award winning Viewer Relationship Strategy (Data Strategy Awards 2014) at Channel 4. This is transforming our business and customer experience. Much of the initial work involved me working closely with my colleagues on developing our policies on data privacy, openness and what value we would add to the viewer. We are now well into the implementation of this which involves the use of the high performing identity systems, Big Data technologies such as Hadoop and personalisation of our customer facing products. We currently have a market lead here which improves the viewer experience and adds value to our advertisers.
What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
My teams work with a number of technologies as appropriate to the problem we are trying to solve or product we want to develop. Much of our consumer facing web products are now hosted in the cloud, predominantly on Amazon Web Services. We are constantly looking to mature our use of these technologies to minimise time to market and cost while giving the development teams maximum flexibility.
We are also developing expertise in big data technologies to drive analytics. We are currently mainly using the Elastic Map reduce distribution of Hadoop with tools such as Hive and Pig to process massive volumes of data from our consumer facing platforms. Our Advertising Sales system is being delivered in .net with and Oracle database.
What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
Most of our consumer facing video on demand products run in the cloud, largely on Amazon web services. We also use SAAS products widely both for consumer facing systems and internal applications e.g for HR.
How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
Our employees use their own mobile devices to access e-mail, which is now a standard part of our operational and security approach. The use of social media is important for a consumer facing organisation and we have policies to help us get the most of those tools to the benefit of the organisation. It’s essential that we make as many people aware of our great programmes and social media is a helpful way to drive this. Social media is also a useful additional way to monitor our consumer facing products and can be an early warning of operational issues.
Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
Our executive is strongly engaged in technology change and specific with aspects of security and privacy. We have an executive led information security steering group which advises on and has final approval for policies around BYOD and use of social media. We have a proactive approach to the ensuring that our employees can use technology to help them rather than constrain them. For example we've recently introduced Corporate Dropbox to provide a safe way for staff to work on documents remotely.
Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from a number of sources. I was lucky enough to have a great mentor early on in my career and I still use some of the tools and techniques he taught me. I also like to look at what peers are doing beyond my current industry, a lot of great innovation and ideas can come from different seemingly unrelated sectors.
The CIO role in the business
Who do you report to?
Other: Director Of Strategy
Do you have a seat on the board?
How often do you meet with the CEO?
Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
The IT department
How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
160 People. 60 Staff, the remainder a mixture of contract and third party
Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
The team are largely business aligned to ensure we have a focus on the relationship with, and key priorities of the senior stakeholders. There is also a Senior services manager who looks after operations across the whole organisation.
And how many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
What is the primary technology platform? ( for example ERP, Website, trading system)
3 Key platforms. Video on Demand, Programme Scheduling and Rights, and Advertising Sales