Speaking at the RTS Cambridge Convention, Channel 4 chief exec Alex Mahon compared Channel 4’s output to “craft beer, boutique gin and atelier perfume houses” as opposed to the one-size-fits-all content produced by the biggest players in tech.
Mahon argued that while the global streamers produce shows like Orange is the New Black, When They See Us or Stranger Things “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 those multi nationals “may end up without the content that has piquancy to large domestic audiences. 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.”
Mahon argued that alongside multi-territory, one-size-fits-all content, there is a parallel focus “in many other areas of business” on “localism. It’s on nurturing the relevance and the appeal of products made with special care and skill in one location and exhibiting them to a much bigger market. It is a search for universal meaning and universal fascination even in the smallest places. A return to craft, to the atelier, to the boutique. Craft beer. Boutique gin. Atelier perfume houses. All of that sounds pretty good to me. Their appeal is vast and growing and while it is not inimical to growth, it does not depend on scale to succeed.”
She argued that the same focus could work in television. “The key is to expand the appeal of the particular, without altering its inherent qualities, and export it beyond its locality to become general. Conserving what makes a product special in its own place while making it accessible in a much bigger place.
“Whether it’s beer or television, I think the antidote to blandness is to find relevance in a different set of values: innovation, distinctiveness, experimentation, diversity. Those values are what can bring relevance.”
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