Alex Mahon, the chief executive of British broadcaster Channel 4, has attacked the streaming giants for stuffing their platforms with indistinct “trans-territory filler” and putting their commercial needs above all else.
In a speech at the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention on Thursday, Mahon took the opportunity to restate Channel 4’s public service values and commitment to local content in a world dominated by Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube.
Mahon compared the streamers to the food and drink industry, scaling their business by “distributing the same recipe to lots of different markets.” She added that they nakedly “serve their own content and services first in commercial priority above anything else.”
Mahon said: “When the streamers are good they’re very very good. But alongside the hero titles there’s an awful lot of the same: whether it’s drugs lords, mass killers, real crime or heist thrillers — a mix that I suspect is not entirely representative of anyone’s day to day.”
She called this mix of content “trans-territory filler,” which she said more closely resembles a bottle of Budweiser than a craft beer that is popular “because of, not despite” its independence and localism. Channel 4 is the craft beer in her analogy.
“We remain one of the very few organizations who can take something or someone we have never heard of and lift it from obscurity to national visibility. An organization that has the taste and ability to build and launch genuinely new brands from zero,” Mahon said.
She could not resist pointing out that Channel 4 was the originator of Netflix hit Black Mirror, while the streaming service has also picked up other Channel 4 shows in the shape of Top Boy and The Circle. “We often find the content that we create and nuture ends up growing and expanding elsewhere,” Mahon explained.
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