Channel Mum looks ahead after ITV takes a stake

Cybermum: Freegard

The mommy blogging phenomenon is not confined to U.S. borders.

Channel Mum, a YouTube community for millennial British moms, only launched in January but in true millennial fashion it has scaled quickly — claiming an average of 400,000 views in June. This has not escaped the attention of U.K.’s biggest commercial broadcaster ITV, which announced this week that it will take a minority stake in the fledgling venture.

Launched by parenting website Netmums co-founder Siobhan Freegard, Channel Mum is the video hub for around 60 U.K.-based vloggers, cranking out fare such as Jessica Thornton’s My Not-to-Plan Birth Story. Freegard told Digiday that aligning with ITV makes sense given the broadcaster’s prominent female audience: Its ITVBe channel caters specifically to female audiences and is home to U.K. hits including The Only Way is Essex and U.S. Real Housewives.  

ITV’s “audience is mums and they love to listen to other mums talking about issues,” said Freegard. “Everything is blurring so much, eventually we will be watching TV on our phones, and reading blogs on our TVs. It will be hard to see what line is what and which is video and which is TV — it’s all going to merge. It is all just about what makes interesting content.”

Although it is too early to say if there could be content production deals in the pipeline, she said she “wouldn’t rule out” potential for future TV content being commissioned off the back of themes that come from Channel Mum, whose vloggers can’t yet match the kind of reach YouTube stars like “Zoella,” with her audience of 9 million.

Yet the community is still a rich environment for brands, according to Freegard. “We all hear about the huge audiences of these international teenagers have such as Zoella, but reaching a core audience of U.K.-based mums is hugely valuable and isn’t available anywhere else in video format. So even being able to reach 20,000 mums who are willing to watch a three-minute video is huge engagement.”

Going forward, the platform will favor branded content partnerships over traditional pre- or post-roll ads, with opportunities ranging from simple product advocacy to owning whole content sections, according to Freegard. Now it is in conversations with others over future potential deals. “We have been in beta phase to test what our bloggers are comfortable with. As of today the beta phase is over and it will be full steam ahead.”

Panasonic was the first brand to work with the channel, in a pilot project in which 100 mums received peer mentoring, along with £1000 ($1,565) in cash to buy the latest digital camcorders and kit to start their vlog.

This sponsorship has continued, with the online network recruiting 10 new vloggers each month, each of whom receive £200 ($313) and Panasonic equipment. Mothers can apply to be part of the network by submitting video clips in an “X factor” type format.

Pampers also ran a competition-based campaign in which mums were encouraged to share their tips for recording ‘baby firsts’ such as smiling, crawling and walking. Viewers could then share their own suggestions via the hashtag #babyfirsts, for the chance to win a video camera.

Freegard stressed that the bloggers’ authenticity will remain fiercely independent regardless of commercial sponsorship. “I was with a blogger the other day who had turned down a significant deal from a laundry brand which had wanted her to tout their brand and she turned it down because she knew it would alienate her audience,” she said.

Meanwhile she also said there is also an untapped audience in millennial fathers, who Netmums have so far failed to reach. “Men don’t really share their feelings on things like parenting in the same way as women, so it didn’t really work. But video could be the thing that breaks that down,” she said. “That will be one of my major challenges – to make this a network that fathers can participate in and come to to listen to stories on parenting, because there is just as much pressure on dads these days too.”

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