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Katz outlines five-point plan for C4

UK commercial pubcaster Channel 4 (C4)’s new director of programmes has set out a five-point plan for its future, aligned with a £10m (US$13.5m) investment in youth-skewing network E4.

Ian Katz

The first part of Ian Katz’s vision is to “dial up the difference” by giving a voice to people in society who are often not heard.

Speaking at an event staged by C4 at London’s Southbank Centre this morning, the exec said he would “create space and funding for creative risk taking and innovation.”

C4’s plans to install regional commissioning teams across the UK will help the broadcaster to offer a more diverse and distinctive outlook, Katz claims.

A bidding process is currently being held for cities keen to host the broadcaster’s new national HQ and regional hubs with the result to be revealed in October.

“I’m convinced having a commissioning team spread across the country – as we will have from 2020 – will enable us to reach the stories, ideas and talent that others can’t,” said Katz, who replaced Jay Hunt in October last year.

“I firmly believe that taking more creative risks, betting on new talent and dialling up our distinctiveness will, in the longer term, help us to find the next generation of hits.”

Katz also plans to “supercharge” C4’s focus on younger audiences and evolve its digital proposition with a “one show, many platforms” message to viewers.

As well as boosting E4’s budget, C4 will appoint a new controller for the youth-skewing network who will report to Katz.

“E4 is already the strongest youth brand in linear TV,” said Katz. “We think it has the potential to be a powerful young brand across on-demand and social media too. That’s why we are increasing its budget by £10m, with an emphasis on reality and fact ent originations.”

As well as the new controller for E4, a chief product officer will be appointed for VoD service All4 as part of C4’s plans to add “digital acceleration” to its business.

Programming also comes into that, with C4 seeking shows that will shape on-demand growth and getting ready to launch a new internal ratings system to reflect changing viewing habits.

The final two pillars of Katz’s plan of action will see it double down on comedy and enhance collaboration by becoming “the best partner for talent,” although it has no plans to bring production in-house.

“It’s a battle we know we can’t win with a chequebook, so our mission is to ensure that we are the best creative partner anyone with a great idea could have,” said Katz. “It means forging close and long-term relationships with the talent we collaborate with and working hard to ensure we land their work with real impact.”

The pubcaster has commissioned nine new titles to air across its channels that are heavily influenced by humour, including entertainment studio programme The Big Narstie Show, airing in an experimental 23.00 slot.

Katz hopes more of the same will be pitched for the new slot and told producers: “I look forward to hearing your outlandish ideas.”

Katz concluded by saying that C4’s overall aim is to be “popular and purposeful, not niche and highbrow,” and it would achieve this through a strategy of being diverse, disruptive, digitally led and distinctive.

“In a world of superabundant choice, dialling up the difference makes competitive sense too,” he added.

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