Channel 4 is in engaged in an ever-complicated dance with the streamers: they are hoovering up its audience, but the British broadcaster also leans on online players to top-up funding for some of its biggest new shows.
This results in Netflix having improved rights to and more ownership over brands like The End of the F***ing World, meaning audiences potentially associate the show with Netflix rather than Channel 4.
Mahon’s argument is simple: give Channel 4 the credit it deserves for originating these shows. Channel 4 branding does appear on The End of the F***ing World and Derry Girls on Netflix in the UK, but the fact Mahon raised attribution at a conference in London shows it is an issue at the front of the CEO’s mind.
“The important things to us are the attribution of the Channel 4 brand, so people know these things are on Channel 4,” she told Digital UK’s Outside The Box conference on Tuesday. “It’s not control of the brand, it’s the audience thinking: ‘Hey, you brought me that show, I think I might test that [other] show of yours.'”
Mahon said this is particularly important at a time when audiences are “completely oversupplied” with content from a kaleidoscope of providers. “We’re overwhelmed by choice, we find choice quite stressful, so that leads us to defer choice… which means you gravitate towards the familiar,” she said.
The Channel 4 CEO added that the UK is at risk of “sleepwalking” into a world where local public service broadcasters are crowded out by U.S. giants. Mahon said regulation is vital to ensure that these broadcasters — which have a legal duty to provide British viewers with less commercially lucrative output like news and current affairs — are given prominence on all platforms.
“iOS and Android control 90% of mobile screens. The screen they don’t control is the television screen. Once you control the operating system you control what content is served, what is personalized,” she said. “I want the government to put in place legislation that devolves the powers to Ofcom to create a prominence regime where public service content is on the front page of any of these devices.”