In a year which saw over 10 million people in the UK watch S4C programmes at some point during the 12-month period, the channel's departing S4C Chair Huw Jones says that the performance of S4C's digital services bodes well for the future.
In presenting the 2018-2019 Annual Report, Huw Jones says that online viewing continued to rise in 2018-19, with a total of 46.9 million online viewing sessions for all S4C programmes and content on S4C Clic, BBC iPlayer and social media.
Huw Jones, who leaves his post in the autumn after eight years at the helm, says, "An increase was seen in the use made by viewers of digital platforms for viewing content, with more than 8.6m viewing sessions on S4C Clic and BBC iPlayer, and a large increase in the level of viewing through social media platforms such as Facebook. Box sets were launched on Clic for the first time with striking effect, particularly for the viewing of drama. Another great success during the year was S4C's new digital service for 16-34 year olds, Hansh. With limited resources, this platform for all types of content has caught the imagination of a younger audience."
Noting that S4C had 38.2 million social media viewing sessions during 2018-19, Chief Executive Owen Evans says that S4C's performance proved that the Channel was right to pursue the policy of investing heavily in digital services.
Owen Evans says "I am glad to see that, as we battle to retain our linear television audience, our digital services have continued to grow and evolve. The fact that S4C has retained the level of reach amongst the younger audience (16-34) at the same levels over the year, contrary to the average of the other five main PSB's in Wales, is significant.
"But perhaps the most significant factor for the future was continuing our digital experimentation and our commissioning on the main channel in order to create a long-term strategy that will transform S4C from being a linear broadcaster into a multi-platform supplier. In doing so, we are responding to viewing patterns which are changing around us, and developing new and exciting partnerships, ensuring that the channel has a strong infrastructure for the future."
The viewing figures for the previous year 2017-2018, had bucked the national trend with S4C increasing its reach in Wales and the UK, so a decrease in viewers watching S4C on television was expected. A total of 665,000 people watched S4C on TV every week throughout the UK, a reduction of 4% on the previous year, but remaining a significant increase over 2016-17.
On-screen there were numerous highlights and triumphs, with drama series such as 35 Awr, Byw Celwydd and Enid a Lucy, leading the way. Other notable successes include live sports coverage of Geraint Thomas' heroic triumph in the Tour de France, innovative human-interest series such as the reunion show Gwesty Aduniad, the launch of the documentary strand DRYCH and refresh of the current affairs service, participation in the 2018 Junior Eurovision Song Contest, the 10th anniversary celebrations of children's service Cyw and many award-winning successes, such as older children's series Prosiect Z. A number of drama series commissioned by S4C also appeared on both network and international tv channels.
Huw Jones says the last 12 months have set the foundations for the coming decades with the channel's administrative headquarters moving to Carmarthen from Cardiff, to the Canolfan S4C Yr Egin at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David campus and the technical facility preparing to co-locate with BBC Wales at its new headquarters in Cardiff's Central Square. The organisation also began setting in motion some of the recommendations of the independent Review into its structure and governance*.
Huw Jones, who was appointed S4C Chair at a time of great financial challenges and increased competition in 2011, pays tribute to the Welsh media industry for making S4C such a dynamic platform for the Welsh language.
"I would like to thank the production companies and organisations, and the talented individuals who work for them in front of and behind the screen, for giving us programmes which compete with the best, which provide a fitting modern public arena for the Welsh language, and which fully justify the efforts and wise decisions which led to the establishment of the Channel in the first place, back in 1982."
And in also thanking the UK Government and Welsh Assembly, the BBC and a raft of other organisations for their support, he adds, "S4C is a central part of the means of ensuring a future for an old old language, which is the first language of a minority, but a source of pride for an entire nation."
Notes to Editors
A full copy of the 2018/19 S4C Annual Report has been published online http://www.s4c.cymru/en/about-us/authority/page/17305/annual-reports/
S4C has presented the 2018/19 Annual Report to the UK Parliament in Westminster and to the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff.
* Euryn Ogwen Williams' Independent Review of S4C, together with the Government's response, was published in March 2018. Its recommendations included the need to provide S4C with the statutory remit to pursue a comprehensive digital strategy.