Channel 4’s deputy director of programmes Kelly Webb-Lamb used her keynote interview at this week’s Televisual Factual Festival to call for series with self-contained episodes and new kinds of access shows.

Webb-Lamb said Channel 4 was in the market for “big, channel defining ideas that only Channel 4 would do” and picked out The Circle, The British Tribe Next Door and Hunted as good examples. “Those shows are really important to us. We’ve still got huge opportunities” for more, she said. “They take a long time to produce but they are really important to us and we do pay properly for them. They are the thing that defines us as a channel and we are actively looking for shows like that.”


She said that equally important were self-contained returning ideas. “returnable ideas that you can watch one episode of that aren’t part of a series” with Gogglebox a good example. “These formats are really, really hard to come up with,” she said adding that most ideas offered in the space are still ‘swap’ formats. “But I think we’ve come to a time now where audiences know what’s going to happen  at the end of a show like that. Actually what we need in self-contained formats are  ideas where you don’t know exactly what happens at the end. Ideas that have still got that open ended excitement. Where you can play along.”


She used an example of Label1’s  upcoming dating show Five Guys a Week. “We are really up for piloting things like this. If they work we’re open to making big orders. We made an order of 10 for that series which is a proper commitment.”


She said another advantage of that show was that it “allows us back inside people’s homes, which I’ve been wanting to find since I arrived at the channel. That’s hard because sometimes being inside people’s homes can feel really small. And in this market, it’s hard to land shows where it feels small. So it’s about thinking of ways to make domesticity feel big. It manages to do that. It’s also funny and warm” and can feature a “diverse range of people throughout the country. So all of those things make the each episode feel different.”


Webb-Lamb also said that “access does really well for us on the channel” and that could also be for singles. “Singles can play really well.”


She highlighted a new Plum Pictures access doc on Best Western Hotels. “We’ve always done well with sort of the luxurious end of the market – posh access, but we wanted to see what kind of broader access could we do?” Describing the new doc as “really funny” saying it “gets you across the whole of Britain.”


Webb-Lamb also had tips about pitching, saying her biggest “don’t do” was to pitch a subject or an area. “We are always interested in those broad areas but you need an idea. I don’t want people to spend weeks working out every format beat and polishing but we need a germ of something that gives us a new way in,  some kind of counter intuitive take.  

Sometimes it’s the idea and sometimes it’s talent and sometimes it’s access but coming in to talk about territories – that’s my top ‘don’t do’.


Staff Reporter

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