• C4 chief takes aim at streamers over “filler content”
  • PSBs serve as “vital counterweight” to growing tech behemoths
  • Mahon bigs up C4 Brexit coverage during RTS Cambridge keynote

Alex Mahon C4

Alex Mahon

Source: RTS

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon took a swipe at global streaming services at this week’s RTS Cambridge Convention, accusing them of profiting from “trans-territory filler work”

During a keynote, the C4 chief warned viewers should be “wary of a future controlled by just the biggest players in tech.”

Mahon argued that television seems to be following the same model as the global food and drink industry: “Where the secret of success is simplicity. It’s about distributing the same recipe to lots of different markets.”

Acknowledging that the rise of the streamers has funded a golden age of television and film content, she said: “When the streamers are good, they’re very, very good. But alongside the hero titles there’s an awful lot of the same: whether it’s drugs lords, mass killers, real crime or heist thrillers – a mix that I suspect is not entirely representative of anyone’s day to day.

She said that the economics of this “trans-territory filler work” meant that an SVoD like Netflix could stitch together one big audience from a set of separate, disassociated audiences in different markets.

“In doing that they may end up without the content that has piquancy to large domestic audiences, that resonates in a way that’s big enough to be important to our whole society. The global telly of the future will not be - and isn’t being - designed to reflect Britain back to itself, to bring the nation together at particular moments, to inform and educate a particular society or to care about promoting any kind of social cohesion.”

She positioned public service broadcasters like Channel 4 as a “vital counterweight to the growing concentration of power in the hands of just a few tech behemoths who increasingly want to decide what we read, watch and listen to.”

Mahon said PSBs like C4 look to tackle issues affecting modern Britain in a way that others don’t, talking up its move to open new bases in Leeds, Bristol and Glasgow this autumn.

She also cited a series of recent shows about Brexit on Channel such drama Brexit: The Uncivil War. “The global SVoDs could never be expected to take the decision to commission a swathe of programming looking at Brexit across multiple genres, given the low likely demand for such content outside the UK or in secondary windows in the UK over time.

“And yet, Brexit will shape the lives of everyone in the UK, and the younger generation in particular. Brexit has served to expose how we are relevant to the lives, concerns, interests of our audiences in a way that streamers simply aren’t, don’t want to be and indeed simply cannot be.”