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Channel 4 content chief warns indies of ‘quiet summer’ but promises ‘normal service’ soon

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According to a report in Broadcast, Channel 4 content chief Ian Katz has warned indies to expect a “quiet” summer, but claimed that “normal service will resume soon.”

The apparent reassurance comes as rumours have swirled about the broadcaster’s financial affairs following a glut of cancellations, non-renewals and cuts that have affected some of the channel’s most popular, and seemingly successful, shows.

SAS: Who Dares Wins, Four Weddings, Escape to the Chateau, Rescue: Extreme Medics and The Last Leg are among the big-name shows facing confirmed cuts or cancellations.

High-profile audience favourite Naked Attraction, which shoots at Manchester’s dock10, was among the latest show to attract rumours of the axe, although Channel 4 put paid to those rumours with a statement on Sunday that said: “Naked Attraction has not been decommissioned and a new series will return to Channel 4 next year.”

The statement went on: “Channel 4 is in robust health – however like all commercial broadcasters we’re taking some precautionary measures such as rephrasing some content and production in response to a downturn in the ad-market. The vast majority of our shows have not been affected.”

Katz now appears to have elaborated on that with a degree of optimism. Broadcast quotes the chief content officer as saying: “Like others in the industry we remain confident that advertising spend will pick up later in the year, and we want to ensure that we are well-placed to dial up commissioning once conditions improve.”

Katz added that due to the cyclical nature of the ad market, summer is always a time of relatively few new commissions, and promised indies a series of briefings in September which will address commissioning and content priorities for the broadcaster.

He concluded: “I hope it’s helpful to have a bit more context and clarity about how we are approaching the next few months. Normal service will resume soon.”

Katz’s assessment that the current picture is simply the usual summer slowdown in the cycle would seem to be somewhat undermined by his admission that we are not currently seeing “normal service,” but perhaps the channel has taken on the advice of John McVey, the CEO of PACT, that the channel simply “talk about” the situation.

He Speaking exclusively to Prolific North last week, UM Manchester’s head of AV Matt Rutherford was keen to put the 10-15 per cent drop in supplier spending on linear TV to April 2023 in the context of consecutive annual rises of 11 per cent and 16 per cent in 2021 and 2022. 

He also highlighted an upwards trend in VOD spending, which is expected to report gains of around four per cent for 2022 to £850m.

Rutherford added: “Overall reach remains strong for TV, suggesting viewers aren’t giving up on linear TV – they are just using it as part of their viewing eco-system (alongside SVOD, BVOD, YouTube, TikTok and other video formats). Viewers are becoming more platform agnostic, and TV has a place within that.” 

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