Channel 4 is well known for the breadth and variety of its output, broadcasting everything from hard-hitting documentaries about the questionable ethics of the gold jewellery industry, to popular games shows such as Deal or No Deal. The words breadth and variety apply equally well to the early career of Channel 4’s CIO, Kevin Gallagher.
As an apprentice at British aircraft equipment manufacturer Dowty, Gallagher spent six months at university and six months at work. He says the scheme was instrumental in developing his interest in IT, as the electronics-based course placed considerable emphasis on computing.
Gallagher went on to see how important a role IT can play in aiding the development of young people and economies, when he spent two years in the 1990s teaching in Nigeria. He taught technology and woodwork in a secondary school and says that the children’s grasp of IT surpassed his expectations.
“The course I was teaching was an introduction to technology,” he recalls. “It was about trying to give young people some basic IT skills. We wanted to give the children the building blocks to be able to set up an IT infrastructure in their country rather than having to import talent and skills.”
Gallagher moved back to the UK and in 1999 joined Channel 4 as a programme manager, making his way to the top of the broadcaster’s IT division when he was appointed CIO at the end of 2008, joining several relative newcomers at the head of the organisation.
“There’s a new management team, a new CEO and a new chief creative officer, so things are exciting at Channel 4 right now,” he says.
“IT is vital for us because it helps run our business but forms part of our offering too. We’re a publicly owned, commercially funded business so we have to be lean and mean - it’s all about building efficiencies.”
Gallagher says his IT team is currently focused on putting the technology in place to fulfil a 10-year agreement worth over £1m with UKTV. This will see it create a platform to manage adsales across 10 channels, including Dave and Yesterday.
“It is important to have the right team and good project managers. Our guys knew what questions to ask when we began the project and they worked closely with the guys at UKTV to better understand its needs. It was also important to make enough time to test and test. In an integration project such as this one, it’s all about testing as much as you can.”
Another project taking up a lot of Gallager’s time recently revolves around the broadcaster’s move into online gaming, to complement its 4oD video-on-demand web site, which has been running since 2006.