Channel 5 controller reveals how Viacom deal will spark more content collaboration

Channel 5's £450m deal with Viacom will see the channel pool resources with partners including MTV and Comedy Central to "grow and share content", acording to Channel 5 director of programmes Ben Frow.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International TV Festival this morning Frow said: "For me the most important thing about working with Viacom is how open and up for collaboration everyone is.

"Everybody is up for growing and sharing content, making shows that can naturally play on other channels, but we are all different and our channels work in their own way and we don't want to compromise them."

Set to be finalised in September, Frow believes the deal won't change Channel 5's position as the "underdog" of the public service broadcasters (PSBs). "We'll always have less money than other PSBs," he remarked.

"I have a £200m budget...and you have to work with what you've got. When it comes to scheduling we have to be the one who moves. We can't compete with the likes of Bake Off...I like to think there's a gentleman's agreement amongst broadcasters that you go for the alternative, the ones who aren't interested in that big show. There's no point taking an audience and cutting it in half because it's the viewer that loses out."

Often pitted against Channel 4, Frow responded to Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt's claims that there is now "clear blue water" between the two broadcasters claiming that, for him, "it's not about beating Channel 4, it's about making Channel 5 as good as it can be".

Adding that if that's how she feels then she won't be "scheduling a benefits debate against my immigration debate again then".

"There's no point in bashing Channel 4, we all have different roles to play. Any programme that's new is a risk, I'm sure the BBC would say 'Tumble' is a risk, we're all born risky, Channel 5 is risky we just don't bang on about it."

With a year and a half at the helm of Channel 5, Frow deemed working with Richard Desmond as "exhilarating, in a mad way" and that he felt he shared a lot of "traits" with him.

"He made me perform at an incredibly high level as you never knew when that call was going to come," he said. Of Desmond's offer to buy him a Ferrari if he could beat Channel 4 in the ratings he said it was a great experience for both him and the Channel 5 team.

"That week we had three days between the meeting where he made the offer and going to listings. We pulled together five new programmes and marketed it as 'Law and Disorder' week. When it came to it we hadn't beaten Channel 4, but then someone said if you look at pure Channel 4 - excluding 24, +1, and so on - against our Channel 5 I think we beat them by 0.01 per cent," and though Desmond came good on the offer Frow ultimately turned him down due to the "practicalities" owning a Ferrari could bring.

"He [Desmond] isn't a stupid man, he's a very clever, successful man," Frow added.

"He deserves credit for Channel 5. He's created a lean - maybe too lean at times - fighting machine and I take my hat off to him. Working with him was a life-hanging experience and I really enjoyed it, bonkers though it was."

Looking ahead Frow pinpointed Channel 5's lack of success with entertainment programming citing dating show 'Stand By Your Man' as a "what was I thinking moment", but added that it wouldn't deter him from trying the genre again.

'The Big Benefits Row Live' was crowned as Frow's "defining" moment of the last 12 months as it highlighted Channel 5's "opportunistic" attitude.

"These quick turnaround pieces really are about flying by the seat of our pants. It's a risk, is it a big enough story? Are enough people talking about it?, but I love those pieces that make the schedule feel alive and vibrant."

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