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4seven: Channel 4's bold move to reinvent catch-up TV

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Channel 4: 4Seven

© Channel 4

Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham yesterday announced an ambitious new direction for catch-up television with the launch of 4seven, a forthcoming channel which will allow viewers to recap on the Channel 4 shows that have caused the most online "buzz" over the past seven days.

The launch of 4seven means that active discussion around programmes such as Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and US drama Homeland on social media, blogs and online forums will give the programmes another spin on the new channel.

However, the Digital Spy article on the new channel has led to a mixed response from readers.

Poster David Wheater commented: "Total waste of time and bandwidth. We don't need more ways to watch what's been on already. More of the big shows are repeated at least once the same week, they are also shown on the +1 channels where they exist and they are on 4oD or iPlayer etc. for weeks afterwards.

"Finally the Daves or Golds out there get hold of them and repeat them forever and a day. I know it's not every show, but you get the idea. While Channel 4 does provide some great programming (Homeland for example) they should concentrate on making more, instead of wasting time and money on this pointless channel."

Homeland S01E03 still
Chris Christou added: "I have the internet. I have a TiVo box. I have Virgin Media Catch-Up. Why would I watch 4seven? For the adverts? I hope C4 don't start withholding their shows from catch-up now. That would take the biscuit."

On initial view, it does appear that 4seven is an initiative that is not needed. Channel 4 already has a '+1' network of its main channel showing programmes one hour later than their scheduled start time.

The public-owned but commercially funded broadcaster has also offered the 4oD catch-up TV since 2006, enabling viewers to watch programming again on-demand on a variety of connected devices for 30 days after transmission.

On top of that, many UK homes have personal video recorder (PVR) services, such as Sky+, Freeview+ and Virgin Media TiVo, that can record any programming to watch at a later date.

However, this is possibly missing the point of 4seven. Viewing via catch-up TV, PVRs or other means only makes up an extremely small percentage of overall TV viewing, as the majority is still done live while the viewers are sat on the couch with the remote control.

Watching TV
Despite a myriad of ways to access and watch content outside of the broadcast schedule, many viewers still claim that they are missing the major shows, particularly older audiences, which is a real problem for broadcasters who have invested so heavily in the content.

Discussing 4seven's launch, DS reader George Miller said: "I'm very likely to watch this channel as I'd much rather watch a show I'd missed on the TV, than using a laptop to watch online. I like to use my laptop at the same time, which I can't do if I'm using it to catch up on something."

Another important aspect of 4seven is Channel 4's attempt to bring together the "buzz" around shows on social media and online with its TV networks. This "buzz" will also be incorporated into the look and feel of the channel, said Channel 4, creating a greater sense of engagement with viewers.

Discussing the new approach to catch-up TV at a conference yesterday, David Abraham said: "It's a variation which we think goes with the grain of increased optionality but that combines the continued strengths of digital TV with the opportunities of social media.

"As such we hope that it will be an example of how the TV network will continue to adapt and evolve in order to survive in this most revolutionary of decades for media consumption."

Television and remote
Scott Wilkinson, former journalist and co-founder of creative agency Bordello, said that 4seven is an "interesting development" that shows how companion screens (such as laptops, smartphones and tablets) and social media are beginning to drive what is shown on TV.

"What Channel 4 has cleverly recognised is that they can have instant feedback; not just in numbers but in feelings and emotional reactions. Imagine what will happen when politicians realise that they can tap into the same potential," he said.

"We're very close to the point at which technology will have a direct impact on the way we create democracy. TV is getting more democratic; the rest of society will follow suit. The creaking systems of the 19th and 20th centuries are going to be replaced with something much closer to the people.

"Whether you think that's a good or bad thing probably depends on how vested you feel in the current system. But despite the inevitable drag and resistance the status quo will create, change is now very firmly in the air."

> TV viewing being driven by social media buzz, says report

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