Channel 4 is going the way of the BBC early next year, when it will begin forcing users to sign up for an All 4 account in order to access the catchup service. No doubt, like the BBC, this will give Channel 4 the opportunity to better tailor the All 4 experience to the individual. But switching accounts from optional to mandatory isn't without an ulterior motive. Just as the BBC peeks at user data to catch out licence fee dodgers, Channel 4 will utilise it to serve targeted ads to nearly every All 4 streamer, whether they be watching on a phone, tablet, console or smart TV.
"From next year every All 4 advertising opportunity will be personalised or targeted," said Channel 4 exec Jonathan Lewis. This won't apply to the All 4 service on Sky and Virgin boxes, though, since Channel 4 doesn't directly control those platforms. The broadcaster has its own ad format that literally calls the viewer out by name, but don't expect every targeted ad to be this obvious. If you have an All 4 account you use regularly, chances are Channel 4 knows your location, age, gender, interests and viewing habits by now, meaning you've seen your fair share of personalised ads already.
Channel 4 isn't just looking at serving targeted ads online, but to linear TV viewers too, and is looking at a range of potential partners including Sky. The pay-TV provider has its own technology called Adsmart, which paints a very detailed picture of individual households using data on income, family status, spending habits and even pet preferences. Marketers then use this to push certain ads at very specific audiences, delivered straight to their Sky boxes.