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Media Edinburgh International TV Festival

TV guide: ITV, C4, Sky and BBC bosses on the future of their channels


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

August 24, 2018 | 5 min read

As the Edinburgh International Television Festival comes to a close, we collate what the great and good of the British television industry had to say at this year's event.

Zai Bennett, Sky UK

Bennett, interviewed by Lauren Laverne, discussed the network's drama and entertainment offerings. He said that Sky had enjoyed a strong 18 months and that it was backing up recent success by increasing budgets as much as 25% in the next year. "We have to give viewers something that's worth what they're paying," he said.

He went on to talk about the channel's innovations in contextual programming, praising spin-off shows put on around big hits like Westworld and Game of Thrones, saying that the projects were part of the channel's responsibility to care for big brand shows and their fandoms. "We need to treat them with care and respect and attention," he said.

Ian Katz, Channel 4

C4's new chief said that success in his role would be defined by the channel's progress with younger viewers. He said: "We've got to attract young viewers at the same rate – or better – as we're losing them with linear." Katz said the network needed new metrics to measure the time spent with its content. He pointed to recent efforts at aggregating content, including its partnership with Vice, as a direction the channel might take in the future.

He suggested that expanding All4's offering was a priority for the channel. "The value of a pair of eyeballs was shattered with the move to digital... but we value eyeballs the same if they're digital or on linear and so do advertisers," he said. Katz went on to describe the balance between scaling the channel's digital offering and finding funding to support it, claiming that advertiser spend is still not as high in digital as it is in linear.

In the latter part of the session, Katz discussed diversity at the broadcaster. He said that a recent report that declared Channel 4 the 'poshest' broadcaster to work at was "embarrassing" and that while C4 was better than its rivals on gender and ethnic diversity, it had a lot of work to do bringing in a more socially diverse workforce.

Kevin Lygo, ITV

ITV's head of studios talked at length about the company's bumper year, coming on the back of hits like Love Island. Speaking alongside head of digital Paul Mortimer, Lygo discussed the success of Love Island and its future on ITV2, with Mortimer addressing the concerns around its depiction of sexual stereotypes and sculpted bodies. "We're a sexy channel so we hire sexy people," he said. During Love Island's eight-week run, the ITV Hub overtook rival BBC iPlayer for the first time ever, he claimed.

Other talking points included the future of the X-Factor – he said that ITV's job was "to keep it going and keep it fun", and that the show was "an enormous success". Lygo also revealed that long-running marquee show I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here would return with only one half of its famous presenting duo, as Ant McPartlin continues his break from broadcasting.

Charlotte Moore, BBC1

Moore emphasised the channel's brief to unite audiences around big events and start nationwide conversations, highlighting the impact of shows like Blue Planet and the corporation's coverage of the Royal Wedding.

She said that the loss of tentpoles like The Voice and Bake-Off to rivals had given the channel "creative headroom" to devise new formats and shows. Notably, while Moore acknowledged that the growth of digital platforms and other ways of viewing has given rise to increased competition in British broadcasting, she said that the BBC's role was "the guardianship of British stories".

Patrick Holland, BBC2

Holland called BBC2 "an essential part of the TV landscape" and praised its recent form on factual programming, calling David Olusoga-fronted documentary A House Through Time "part of social history that told stories of working class life, social life and empire".

Holland stressed the importance of factual programming, saying: "We're committed to art, history and religion. Our challenge is to weave that into something the viewer will enjoy."

Damian Kavanagh, BBC3

Kavanagh talked about how he keeps his team in touch by warning them against becoming “professional young people”. The channel aims to stay authentic and avoid the fetishisation of youth, he said.

He said that the channel "makes programmes for young people, but not necessarily about young people". Kavanagh also discussed the BBC's relationship with independent producers as it seeks to take greater control of properties, and said that it was not trying to exploit producers.

Cassian Harrison, BBC4

The BBC4 controller discussed the channel's unique position within the BBC family and emphasised its freedom to experiment. He said that BBC4's remit was to "surprise viewers more often," and that it was moving away from programmes that featured "an old white man standing on a hill telling you what's what". Praising breakout shows like Detectorists, Harrison trailed a new David Tennant and Jessica Hynes show There She Goes.

Media Edinburgh International TV Festival

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