Channel 4's IT is a department tackling two fronts - dealing with the rapidly changing broadcasting landscape as well as the challenges of how technology is used internally.
As TV audiences demand access to programmes on an increasing number of platforms, Channel 4's IT team has to develop and source the technology to support new forms of content delivery, while also taking care of the IT supporting the broadcaster's day-to-day operations, including the crucial area of advertising sales.
"Our world is changing considerably. Our viewers want to view content anytime, anywhere and on any device. We're under a lot of pressure but it's exciting change," Channel 4 CIO Kevin Gallagher told delegates at the recent Forrester IT Forum EMEA 2011 in Barcelona.
Previously Channel 4's head of applications delivery, Gallagher became CIO in 2009 following the departure of his predecessor Ian Dobb, who headed up the broadcaster's IT for 10 years.
At the time of his departure, Dobb told silicon.com that the broadcaster's technology priorities included improving its web capabilities, making 4oD content suitable for Macs and cutting costs.
Fast-forward two years and Gallagher is now presiding over an IT department that is helping develop the YouView IPTV platform, has tailored the 4oD web TV service for not just Mac but other platforms including the iPad, and is focusing on increasing efficiency rather than cutting costs.
From cost-cutting to efficiency
Cost-cutting is now less of a priority for Channel 4's IT department than it once was, thanks in part to the organisation's early cutbacks to protect itself as the economic downturn struck, as well as the more recent upturn in the television advertising market.
"In terms of cost, we anticipated 2009 to be cut back very hard against 2008. 2009 was a very difficult year for TV advertising. Because we did the right thing, when the market recovered, we were able to recover very quickly," he said.
Channel 4's running budget for technology is now between £20m and £30m annually. "In 2009 it was considerably less," Gallagher told silicon.com.
However, that doesn't mean being efficient is no longer...