Dan Reed’s Leaving Neverland doc about Michael Jackson is on track to become Channel 4’s biggest streamed or downloaded show, according to CEO Alex Mahon.
Speaking at Keshet’s INTV conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday (12 March), Mahon said that the film has been a “huge commercial success” for the broadcaster.
Originally commissioned out of C4, the film was intended to be only an hour before director Dan Reed of Amos Pictures managed to secure access with two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuk, who claim they were sexually abused by the late singer when they were young children.
“It became clear there was enough material to do 4-5 hours, so we brought HBO in. It is a doc that has had global impact. We have seen [Jackson] coming off playlists; we had protests outside the building; and lawsuits have been threatened. But it’s exactly what C4 exists to do.”
Mahon said it was “interesting” that a doc event series such as Leaving Neverland – which aired across two consecutive nights last week – rated so well, adding that the doc was 400% up on the 9-11pm slot average.
“It’s the kind of work we should be doing,” she said, also referring to Tim Wardle and Raw TV’s Three Identical Strangers, which was scheduled the week prior in a primetime slot and was a co-production with CNN Films.
“Audiences have seen Making A Murderer on Netflix, but they haven’t seen these shows on linear so much.”
Confirming that C4 is in talks with the BBC and ITV around getting involved in Britbox UK, the long-anticipated joint SVOD venture for British content, Mahon also expounded on the importance of brand attribution in a saturated marketplace – particularly around C4’s big-budget co-productions such as George Clooney-starrer Catch-22 with Hulu out of the US and Sky Italia.
“What you need in your home [market] is you need that brand attribution and they need to know it came from you. We need to have that attribution so they know it’s a C4 show and they keep coming back, whether it’s streamed or linear.”
Broadcasters must be “stronger in their flavours”, she said, adding that C4 has to have a clear brand proposition to draw younger audiences in particular.
“We are distilling flavours to make them sharper. It behooves us to do that more in this environment because audiences need to know [what our programming is]. We have to be stronger in our flavours so they know what we stand for.”
Later, Mahon highlighted that C4 programming needs to “hit both the commercial and public service bulls-eye”, citing Studio Lambert’s catfishing format The Circle, which was picked up for international by Netflix and will return for a second outing on C4.
“Bake Off does that and The Circle, we’re hoping, does that because it will become more commercial in series two while having the POV of society. The best things do both and that’s what we’re searching for.”