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Factual Festival: Jay Hunt on factual at C4

Factual Festival: Jay Hunt on factual at C4
Tim Dams
25 October 2012

Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt reflected today on the sense of ‘vulnerability’ about the broadcaster that she felt when she first took up the job two years ago.

Speaking at the Televisual Factual Festival, she said that the broadcaster’s economic model had been heavily reliant on the ad revenue from Big Brother for ten years.

And without a long running soap to bolster the schedules or public money to support the broadcaster, she said her key priority has been to “get to a point where we have enough consistency in the schedule so it feels strong.” A key part of the strategy has been to invest in factual series.

‘We are starting on a journey, but there is more to be done,” she said.

She said shows like The Undateables, Make Bradford British and Gordon Behind Bars define what C4 can do best – to take difficult subject matters and get large audiences.

She added that factual entertainment is performing strongly for C4, and said that she is glad there are more single docs on C4 now that the True Stories strand has moved to the main channel. Hunt said she believed progress is also being made with event television, citing shows such as Stand Up to Cancer, Plane Crash and Drugs Live.

She pointed to three characteristics of defining Channel 4 factual shows: innovation and creativity; mischief making; and a sense of having something important to say about the world.

Hunt said that C4 is “still in the market for new ideas in features.” She explained that the broadcaster needs a wider range of feature ideas beyond property and food and is looking at parenting and consumer ideas.

In particular, she stressed the importance of finding ideas for the pre-watershed 8pm slot. “What would be appropriate for families and younger audiences, but that are also mischevious enough?”

Hunt added that C4 is also “desperate” for 10pm factual series, as well as male-skewing content for 8pm on Sunday geared towards X Factor avoiders.

Hunt also expressed concerns about the state of the economy, and its impact on the advertising market and C4’s programme budget. “We are trying to hold the budget,” she said, adding that “the ad sales market is in some difficulty. The ambition is to continue to invest at the level that we are investing now. I don’t know what the world is going to be like next year. But investment in content is sacrosanct.”

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