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Melanie Leach: the hit-maker

Twofour CEO Melanie Leach is the winner of TBI’s Content Innovation Awards Lifetime Achievement gong. Here she talks about what’s led to her stellar career in television.

You’ve seen Twofour grow dramatically over the past two decades in the company, what’s been the key to its success?
Twofour is brimming with brilliant people and with them comes relentless enthusiasm, unwavering resilience and a determination to deliver the very best shows possible. Nobody knows where the hits will come from, but striving to deliver consistently good quality, in both conception and execution, is what drives the teams in all of our labels. I think that ethos is one of the reasons we’ve seen growth across the group.

As CEO, how do you keep the business evolving and profitable?
I like to be quite hands on across all aspects of the business, whether that’s in the early stages of ideas development, reinvigorating an existing brand or negotiating a brand new commercial partnership. The same goes for all of the senior management team. We’ve got a very flat structure which keeps us nimble, able to make quick decisions and move swiftly when we see an opportunity. TV is such a voracious industry that evolution is unavoidable. It’s something to be celebrated, not feared.

How has the vibrant international TV scene impacted Twofour’s business?
We’ve been very encouraged by the performance of the rights division over the past 18 months where we’re experiencing exponential growth. The rise of the SVOD/OTTs is clearly a contributing factor but perhaps more importantly for Twofour, is having a greater range of formats to offer the market. Several of our newer shows are beginning to travel very well and continuing to build that pipeline will be key to delivering continued growth.

Can you see hit formats such as the Educating… series making more of an impact on global streamers in the future?
I think the factual box set is here to stay so demand for series like Educating… should continue to rise. Netflix has led the way in unscripted so far but it will be interesting to see how their competitors respond over the next 18 months.

You’ve had every role in TV from researcher, to producer and now CEO of a successful indie. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Be prepared to work really hard and watch loads and loads of TV. Have an opinion, don’t be afraid to speak your mind, try to be the most enthusiastic person in the room and listen and learn from everyone around you.

As CEO, what element of the business do you find yourself spending most of your time on?
I try to spend 80% of my time on the creative side of the business, helping to develop and make the next generation of Twofour shows. That’s the aspect I find most rewarding.

What’s the key to great content in your opinion?
Great content can come in a hundred and one ways, whether that’s because it makes you question a long-held belief, surprises you with an unexpected plot twist, inspires you to live your life differently, teaches you a new skill or allows you to escape to a magical world. Great content should always evoke some form of emotional reaction.

What show are you most proud to have been a part of in your career?
That’s tough. I’ve been lucky enough to work on some brilliant shows at Twofour, but The Jump holds a special place in my heart. It’s one of the hardest, most dangerous and technically challenging shows ever made on TV but it’s also the most fun that’s possible to have in production.