EXCLUSIVE: Channel 4’s director of programs Ian Katz has said he would consider bringing back Big Brother, and revealed that youth channel E4 is conducting a major hunt for a new reality show.
In an exclusive interview with Deadline, Katz said he would not dismiss out of hand an approach from Endemol Shine Group producer Initial after Viacom’s Channel 5 ditched the longrunning reality show last year.
Asked if he would revisit Big Brother, he said: “I’d keep an open mind about pretty much any format.” Katz later added: “One of the things we’ve learned in the last few years is how effectively almost any historic format can be rebooted in really interesting, creative ways.”
His comments come amid rumors that Endemol Shine is keen to find a new UK home for Big Brother, although Katz did make clear he has not held any direct talks with the production group.
Following the publication of this story, Channel 4 walked back Katz’s comments. A spokeswoman said: “There are no plans for Big Brother to return to Channel 4.”
Channel 4 premiered the British version of Big Brother in 2000, creating a cultural phenomenon, launching the careers of a new breed of celebrity and providing a training ground for some top UK television executives. The show was axed in 2010 and a year later it moved to Channel 5, where it ran until 2018.
Away from Big Brother, Katz said Channel 4 is considering a “bunch” of new formats as part of a “big process” to find a “tentpole” reality show for E4, which could equip it better to compete with ITV2’s Love Island. “There are two or three really exciting options for that slot,” Katz said.
E4 is run by Karl Warner, who joined from Sony-backed indie Electric Ray in 2018. The channel has had a tough year in the ratings stakes, with its share of viewers aged 16-34 falling 5% in peak, meaning there will be pressure on a big new bet to perform.
Elsewhere, Katz said he has not made a decision on whether to commission a third season of The Circle, the Studio Lambert reality show that has also been picked up by Netflix in the U.S.
“We haven’t made a recommission decision yet, but I was incredibly pleased with series two, both creatively and how it performed. It outperformed our expectations,” Katz said. Asked if Channel 4 is trying to drive down the cost, he said: “In any negotiation about any show, you talk about the creative execution, you talk about the specking, you talk about the cost. And we’re having that kind of conversation just as we’d do with any major show.”
The Channel 4 director of programs added that he was bemused by industry fascination with The Circle, suggesting that people are too hung up on overnight TV ratings when the “real numbers” show it is one of the youngest profiling shows on a UK public service broadcaster.
“I’m a bit puzzled by why there is a sort of curious fixation there and I don’t know why that is. And I think, perhaps, one of the elements of it is that, look, it’s a big, shiny play,” he said. “With any new show like this, you’re looking at trajectory over what you hope is going to be multiple series and the growth trajectory of The Circle is in line with other fast-growing shows like Love Island.”
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