Alex Mahon, the CEO of British broadcaster Channel 4, has warned that producers need to innovate in the same way as tech giants such as Twitter and Netflix in order to come up with non-scripted formats that are “less repetitive”.
The former Shine Group boss used her keynote address at the Mip TV market in Cannes, to warn that it needs to use its schedule, particularly its late-night or daytime hours, to “open up risk”.
“Producers need to innovate in the same way as tech companies,” she said. “Technology platforms have changed consumer relationships. Twitter has changed the length of time of a video or text a consumer will get involved in. YouTube has changed the quality of production values people will accept. Netflix has change the emotional connection people have with content through bingeing,” she said.
Channel 4 has been one of the leading lights in the international formats with shows such as Gogglebox, which aired in the U.S. as The People’s Couch on Bravo, and Come Dine with Me.
Mahon’s comments, five months into her role as boss of the network, come after it increased its annual programming and targeted a renewed push in late night entertainment.
C4 previously aired late night formats such as The Word and The Girlie Show and last year began developing a satirical series with Ronan Farrow, the New Yorker journalist who exposed Harvey Weinstein, and The Daily Show co-creator Madeleine Smithberg. However, it’s not clear whether the 30-minute show, which had a working title of Cocks News and is produced by Canadian indie Soshefeigh Media out of LA, is still on the slate.
She urged producers to come with ideas that were less repetitive and said that C4 would open up “pockets of experimentation” to “take the risk together”. However, she admitted that despite having spent most of her career as a producer, it was tough to inform producers exactly what kind of formats she was looking for.
Mahon added that C4 need to remain distinctive, particularly in a world of SVOD services such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple, although she said she didn’t want to be “doom laden” about it. “The concept of distinctiveness in a post-Netflix world is more important than ever, and for us that’s got to be as well, with the concept of relevance.”