Industry Welcomes 4iP
Channel 4 launched its 4iP initiative this week which aims to stimulate public service digital media across the UK. New Media Knowledge engaged the UK digital media community to see what it thought of 4iP.
Channel 4’s 4iP fund (4 Innovation for the Public), which involves input from a number of regional development agencies and funding partners, went live this week. Between them, they will pump £50m into content and services over the next two years. In its own words 4iP “aims to deliver publicly valuable content and services on digital media platforms with significant impact and in sustainable ways. It represents one of the biggest and most exciting calls-to-action for new and emergent digital media companies in the UK.”
In a nutshell, anyone can submit an idea to the website which will then be assessed by Channel 4’s digital team to see if they could be turned into viable businesses. The strongest ideas will be helped to fruition by Channel 4.
Channel 4’s Marcus Page said: “With 4iP we are being proactive in finding original interactive media products and services, as digital platforms become increasingly important.”
Channel 4 sees 4iP as critical to its evolution from a publisher and broadcaster to a multiplatform network, becoming an investor in original interactive media products and services instead of being purely a commissioner of television programmes.
At a tough time for the economy, the UK digital media community see 4iP as a welcome and shrewd move by Channel 4.
“Investing in innovation has never been more attractive,” said Peter Matthews, Managing Director of Web consultancy, Nucleus. “If conventional asset classes are now considered unattractively volatile, you can reason that the risk delta between ‘safe’ investments, like publicly traded equities, and ‘risky’ early stage start-ups is much diminished. If 4iP can stimulate interest in innovation and bring together people with ideas and investors, it could be a significant and timely initiative by Channel 4.”
For Matthews, innovation is key to keeping the UK at the forefront of digital developments - something which he fears could be at risk in the current economic crisis.
“Innovation is one of the few ways we have to get out of the mess that our wayward bankers have got us into. With the current crisis comes the urgent need for transformation of many systems and industries, and this needs to be fundamental change, not tinkering. Therefore any initiative to stimulate innovation is welcome,” he told NMK.
“At the same time, the epicenter of 'who owns the world' is moving steadily eastwards, so, unless we in the West focus on innovation and creating new, more transparent and more efficient models that can create and capture value for us in the future, our hopes of maintaining prosperous economies will simply rely on hope,” he continued.
Jens Bachem, Managing Director of creative agency Digital Outlook believes that 4iP will open up much needed funding to the wider community of interactive and television innovators, whether they are people working on PCs in their basement or professional outfits.
“It's great to see 4iP come to life, particularly considering that there's no real commissioning eco-system when it comes to online content,” he said.
Bachem believes that the digital community up until has been lacking in a body which will help provide a helping hand to would-be innovators. “Most video sites incentivise creative people in some way shape or form to submit their content, but few actually offer to commission upfront based on the strength of ideas,” he said. “[Channel 4] needs to ensure this is not a pure creative fest and that a sufficient number of the properties that get commissioned actually become commercial successes.”
Tom Dolan of digital agency Cimex agrees that 4iP could provide the shot in the arm that the UK digital media industry needs at the moment, and believes it could lead to some major successes in the future.
“We hope [4iP] will provide an injection of enthusiasm for large projects in the sector, and a new way for new media companies such as ourselves to look at getting ideas to market without the need to be aligned with a key government initiative or shoehorned into fitting with a TV programme brand,” he said. “We need to see how the economy pans out in the next few months but it would be a great shame if there’s no way to achieve any of the external or ongoing funding projects might need.”
Dolan believes that by Channel 4 will now gain access to a whole new range of developers and content providers for its linear services, as well as scoring a lot of political capital with Ofcom.
“I imagine the 4iP inbox is initially going to be rammed with projects that never went forward for very good reasons other than funding,” he concluded. “There’s never a shortage of people passionate about getting their bad idea off the ground. I hope [4iP] gets to find the gems among them.”