Channel 4 unveils plans to focus on digital viewing

Channel 4 has unveiled a new strategy to focus on digital viewing.

The broadcaster said its plans would ensure that it “remains a relevant and vibrant voice in a digital world”.

Director of programmes Ian Katz said he wants to double viewing to streaming service All 4 over the next five years.

The announcement came after the Government unveiled plans to review public service broadcasting, with the possible privatisation of Channel 4 on the cards.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden previously said “all options need to be on the table” for the publicly-owned but commercially-funded public service broadcaster.

The broadcaster said it would prioritise digital growth over linear ratings.

Alex Mahon, chief executive officer at Channel 4
Alex Mahon, chief executive officer at Channel 4

Katz said: “To ensure that Channel 4 remains a relevant and vibrant voice in a digital world, we know we must now bring all the passion, originality and disruptive flair that we brought to the world of terrestrial TV 38 years ago to the world of streaming and social media.”

The broadcaster, originally set up in 1982 to deliver to underserved audiences, said there would be an increased focus on programmes which create “noise”.

But Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon said the broadcaster would not be abandoning its linear channels.

It will invest more in content that performs strongly on All 4 such as “young-skewing factual entertainment, ‘box-setable’ and noisy documentaries”.

It also includes “reality, comedy entertainment, scripted comedy and young-skewing ‘bingeable’ drama”.

Channel 4 said that “over the coming year we’ll do our best to offer viewers an escape from the grimness of a Covid-ravaged world with a schedule packed with fun and joy”.

Taskmaster made a triumphant return last night with Series 10 on @Channel4!

Catch up on Episode 1, and all previous series, on All 4. Watch the rest of the series on Channel4, Thursdays at 9pm, or the family-friendly version on E4, Sundays at 5.45pm.

— Taskmaster (@taskmaster) October 16, 2020

Citing shows such as Living Wild, The Dog House, Snackmasters and Taskmaster, Katz said: “I’m determined that however miserable the news is outside our living rooms, Channel 4 will be an oasis of joy in a joyless age.”

It said All 4 achieved record growth, with views to the streaming service up 27% this year.

New programming includes drama Help, starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham, which “will take an uncompromising look at the crisis that engulfed British care homes during the first wave of the pandemic”.

New comedy Big Boys will follow two students embarking on their first year at university.

Former Great British Bake Off presenter Sandi Toksvig and her celebrity friends, including Bake Off judge Prue Leith, will get away from it all on a “staycation like no other in Extraordinary Escapes, a new travel series”.

And former Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc will prove “that carpentry can be every bit as creative and competitive as cooking in Good With Wood”.

Other shows include the return of The Circle, with a new celebrity version of the reality show, while Kathy Burke will front a new series, All Money, to “probe the gap between rich and poor in Britain today”.

News and current affairs coverage includes a “landmark” new series on the policing of rape and a series following a covert police operation hunting a crime group believed to be trafficking women into the UK.

The Max Clifford Story will “explore the rise and fall” of disgraced celebrity publicist Max Clifford.

Channel 4 will do more “original short-form content distributed on social media” and new E4 digital shorts, including Grime Therapy, an animated series featuring the UK grime stars talking about mental health and how to cope with it.

Previous changes to the broadcaster include having national headquarters in Leeds and creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow.