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Britbox, Amazon, Channel 4 and Quibi set out their unique vision of the future of TV


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

August 23, 2019 | 6 min read

Commissioners and controllers at some of the biggest streaming platforms and broadcasters in the UK set out opposing visions of the TV industry's future at the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

croppped kevin lygo

ITV controller Kevin Lygo discussed the channel's strategy for OTT

While public service broadcaster Channel 4 set out its pitch as the UK's most representative broadcaster, deep-pocketed Amazon Studios declared that "we don't obsess about the competition."

Newcomer Quibi meanwhile argued for its place as the new home of comedy in a changing media landscape.

Here's a look into those plans in greater detail.

ITV on Britbox: So much more than Poirot

ITV controller Kevin Lygo, in conversation with broadcaster Kay Burley, discussed the channel's plans for Britbox – the streaming service set to be launched by ITV and the BBC – and its own original content going forward.

Discussing Britbox, he confirmed that ITV would be commissioning original content for the service, and "there will be a lot more to it than repeats of Poirot, marvellous though they are."

He said: "For us, Britbox will be a new revenue stream that won't cannibalize our other revenue streams. We know from viewers and from ourselves that that form of viewing, without advertising, is really pleasurable. It's not going to be a rival to Netflix and Amazon because they have billions of dollars, but all the research shows that British people are mostly interested in British programming – and Netflix is great but it doesn't do much British programming."

However, Lygo still cautioned that for its prime audience, broadcast was still the primary way to watch TV. "Most people just get home from work and plonk themselves in front of the TV and think 'What's on tonight?' So, overnights are still really important for us."

Channel 4: A return to the buccaneering ways

Channel 4 controller Ian Katz, in conversation with presenter Anita Anand, said the broadcaster was set to return to buccaneering ways after years "driving quite close to the middle of the road."

"C4 has made more waves over the last six months than in any other whole year," he said. Pointing to controversial drama Brexit: The Uncivil War, Katz said: "I can't remember a time when the channel felt more relevant and in the national conversation than when that ran."

Katz said that the broadcaster's regional bases in Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol were set to help the channel discover new talent in the UK. He said: "This is the underlying drive behind the opening of the regional bases. We want to have stories that are profoundly universal, that are resonant and that get to us all." He suggested that the channel's regional hubs meant that it was developing shows "that are representative of the country in a way that streamers are not doing."

Discussing the broadcaster's digital ambitions, Katz said that its VOD service All4 was growing, but advertiser budgets still had to catch up. "We see very promising signs from the growth in our VOD revenues. Revenue growth on All4 has outstripped growth in the broadcast market consistently. The market is moving their advertising spend from broadcast into vod, but there is a lag."

While Katz said the biggest draws to All4 were old favourites in its comedy catalogue - which includes Father Ted, The Inbetweeners and Peep Show - newer hits such as Derry Girls were also proving popular.

Amazon: Quality, not quantity

Speaking during her own Meet the Commissioner session at the festival, Georgia Brown, director of European originals, discussed the kind of content the fledgling studio aimed to begin producing for Amazon Prime Video. According to Brown, it aims for "quality, not quantity" and for "local content that works in local markets."

"Everything we do starts with creative and works back from that. And we're not just open to huge plush shows; just because we're an SVOD doesn't mean it has to cost £13m an episode."

Brown said that Amazon sees room in the market for its own studio. "We don't obsess about the competition... we're conscious of the current ecosystem. We see ourselves as complementary to the market, so we're not here to tread on broadcasters' toes."

She highlighted to Amazon's investment in sports content such as new football documentary El Corazon de Sergio Ramos and magazine show Back of the Net, as well as a new TV series from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Truth Seekers.

Quibi: Playing for laughs

Quibi content executive Kate Presutti to set out the shortform platform's stall to producers and critics.

Presutti claimed that shortform TV had the potential to become the dominant format of comedy TV, since "shortform has often had a DIY aspect to it. There's an ability for a creator to be more in your face, to let their guard down a little. The ability to just go for it, and that direct intimacy you get with an audience, maybe means there's less risk."

According to Presutti, the platform – which has reportedly drawn in some £1bn in investment to date – is aiming for "soft-scripted and unscripted shows with authentic voices."

"We want to marry the idea of shortform content and the water cooler effect. It's a shared viewing experience, but in a different way."

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