Woe is Channel 4 

25 January 2012 tbs.pm/1290

With the news that Channel 4 is to report its first annual loss for more than a decade,

How on earth did Channel 4 manage to drop the ball so badly over the last ten years, especially as it was supposedly in a stronger position than ITV was back in 2005 when Charles Allen was replaced by Michael Grade.

If you had to name one thing responsible for Channel 4’s current malaise, it just has to be its former dependence on Big Brother. The broadcaster became so dependent upon the show almost to the exclusion of everything else, causing the entire schedule to suffer as a consequence and almost completely sinking the channel’s reputation as well.

Indeed someone wrote a scathing attack directed at Channel 4 in a recent edition of the trade newspaper Broadcast (not available online for free), saying that the channel usually seems to be far more interested in demographics than creative programme-making and have completely lost the plot when it comes to original thinking in recent times.

There’s plenty of evidence in relation to demographic thinking in this Winter Briefing report (PDF file), which amongst other things lists eight “digital personas” for their online services such as:

  • “Generation Web”:

    Young, cash-poor and web savvy.

    Age 18-25

    Watches: Misfits, Beaver Falls, Hollyoaks, etc.

  • “Vod Bods”:

    Upmarket, internet-savvy, Heavy TV and PC VoD viewers. Willing to pay.

    Age: 25-35

    Watches: Fresh Meat, Derren Brown, Phone Shop, etc.

  • “Gadget Wideboys”:

    Young, mobile-centric. Up to date with the latest gadgets.

    Age: 20-30

    Watches: The Big Bang Theory, Rude Tube, Dispatches: The Truth About Drugs In Football, etc.

If you happen to not fit one of the eight categories listed (much like myself), well it seems that Channel 4 doesn’t have anything

has been clinging to what used to be tried and tested formats that are now past their use-by date, such as Come Dine With Me, Deal Or No Deal,

For example, Channel 4 now seems to think that if it showed something other than Come Dine With Me in a particular slot it would end up losing the guaranteed demographic that Come Dine With Me would have have attracted to the same slot.

In a nutshell this is exactly the kind of defensive, fire-fighting strategy that got ITV into a whole load of trouble under Charles Allen for much of the last decade; it may please some of the advertisers some of the time but for the long term this is just asking for trouble big-time.

Of course ITV still maintains a similar position when it comes to handling staples such as Coronation Street, but elsewhere it has become somewhat more adventurous. Scheduling Downton Abbey head-to-head with EastEnders on Christmas Day (traditionally a poor day for advertising) just shows how far scheduling at ITV has progressed in recent years.

A so-called “creative renewal’ was promised when Channel 4 bravely decided to ditch Big Brother at a time when the penny had finally dropped as to exactly what the long-running and formerly hugely popular reality TV show had actually done to the Channel 4 brand, namely damage it.

But attempts to replace the Big Brother vacuum had decidely mixed results for Channel 4; Famous and Fearless was a short-lived series that could have been almost too trashy for Channel 5, and predictably flopped badly as a consequence – why replace one tired reality show with something even tackier?

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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David Hastings Contact More by me

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Friday 5 August 2022