Ed TV Festival: Paramount+ seeks UK originals & C4’s Ian Katz slams privatisation plans

Ben Frow

ViacomCBS put out a call for content pitches from UK indies for Paramount+, while Channel 4 exec Ian Katz warned that privatisation would “destroy” the channel, on the second day of this year’s Edinburgh TV Festival.

Speaking at the event, ViacomCBS Networks UK CCO Ben Frow said that the company plans to commission local content for the SVOD service, which is set to launch via Sky in the UK next year.

Frow said they are looking for high-end, original drama and documentary content from the UK, to stream alongside existing ViacomCBS shows and films, and called on UK indies to pitch series with local resonance and global appeal, confirming that the business had a dedicated budget to invest in premium local content.

“It’s about great content. We’re starting to work on our Paramount+ factual and drama slates – all ideas are welcome,” said Frow.

Frow’s interview was followed by a panel session featuring Sebastian Cardwell, deputy director of programmes; Daniel Pearl, commissioning editor, unscripted; Adrian Padmore, commissioning editor, factual & Eetertainment and Denise Seneviratne, commissioning editor, factual & entertainment.

Cardwell said he was focused on producing premium scripted content, while Pearl asked indies to submit a broad range of ideas covering anthologies, feature documentaries, boxsets and more.

He said; “Ours is an ongoing commitment to commissioning premium shows for SVOD and we are listening to the best ideas out there”.

Ian Katz

Fundamental changes

Channel 4’s chief content officer, Ian Katz, meanwhile used his session at the festival yesterday to share his views on the potential privatisation of the UK public broadcaster.

The UK government officially launched a consultation on the issue last month and Katz was clear in his opposition to the idea: “It would be a very different beast to the Channel 4 we know now.

“Much that is so special and treasured would very likely be lost. Some people say that’s not true because you can just write licence requirements that would protect everything about the channel that we value, but that misses the fundamental change you get when you move from a channel that is purpose driven to one that is profit-driven – I think what is special about the channel would be destroyed.”

The government, meanwhile, says its “preferred option is to facilitate a change of ownership of Channel 4, which it believes will give it greater access to new strategic and investment opportunities, allowing it to compete effectively in a more agile fashion and ensuring it has the best chance of a successful and sustainable future.”

Katz also revealed that Channel 4 has enjoyed a strong year, with its best share performance in a decade, while streaming figures were up by 26%. He said that the success of shows such as It’s a Sin means the broadcaster would be able to add a further £24m to its content budget for 2021-2022.

“There’s a certain irony that we’re having a debate about the sustainability of Channel 4 at a moment that sees Channel 4 in probably the rudest commercial health it’s been in in a decade,” noted Katz.

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