Channel 4 / YouTube deal confirms Andy Duncan is still in the game

Channel 4’s departing chief executive Andy Duncan has no plans to go quietly at the end of this year, as proved by last week’s announcement of a ground-breaking content tie-up between the broadcaster and YouTube.

By the time Duncan is carrying the last of his belongings from the shiny building in Victoria, internet users should be able to view a selection of ad-funded C4 content, including Skins and Hollyoaks, via Google’s video site for free.

The move could be a significant development towards generating digital revenues for both C4 and YouTube.

The non-exclusive, three year deal allows C4 to keep control of its own advertising sales, and some non-C4 content to boot, while reportedly giving the broadcaster the larger share of revenue.

Martin McNulty from internet marketing agency TrafficBroker agrees the partnership has the potential to be very interesting for C4, noting it “opens the broadcaster up to a much bigger advertising market, that is liquid”. He suggests that if traditional content providers can tap into the auction-type ad sales model that has already made adwords a success for Google, it could be a major break through.

Just as significantly, the deal is also the first real sign that exiting Duncan has a list of ‘unfinished business’ concerning commercial partnership which he has every intention of completing.

Last month, he told me he hoped to be able to announce “two or three commercial partnerships” before he steps down as CEO, and refused to rule out a tie-up with BBC Worldwide.

The deal, already dismissed by most as being dead in the water, gained renewed credibility yesterday when Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw called talks between Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide “encouraging.”

Whether the BBC is now more minded to play ball or not remains to be seen, but Duncan clearly has a point to prove and his legacy in mind, which could make for an interesting final quarter. Watch this space.