Channel 4 Entertainment and Events: New Brief 2019
What do we do?
From channel-defining events (Stand Up To Cancer) to award winning satire (The Last Leg), top quality comedy entertainment (The Big Narstie Show, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown) to spectacular live sport (Formula 1), our slate is characterised by range, scale and ambition.
We work with a wide range of producers and genres, both outside and inside the channel. Sometimes we work with a single company while other events cover a broad range of cross-genre content and may involve a mix of suppliers working on the same project. For example Stand Up To Cancer featured content from 12 different companies to create a month-long season of themed programming, culminating in a major piece of event TV. As well as our own commissions we also work closely with other C4 departments to deliver major events across the schedule.
The talent we work with is equally diverse, from big names like Adam Hills, Richard Ayoade and Clare Balding to newer talent like Big Narstie, Courtney Act and Maya Jama. Developing new talent is a crucial part of our remit.
What do we want?
In 2018 our key story was the search for new talent who could author a range of fresh entertainment shows to sit alongside our big and retuning brands. We had real success, delivering us new shows from Big Narstie, Courtney Act and Rob Rinder as well as key on screen roles for Mo Gilligan and Maya Jama. In addition we are developing a range of pilots with a host of other new names; you will see several of these shows and names on screen this year, some in the now established 11pm slot on Friday nights.
In 2019 we want to develop that talent story but also to add to it with a range of bigger, broader shows and series that can play at 9 and 10pm where we have a number of slots available. We are also looking ahead to 2020 and want to hear ideas for major event pieces to launch the year with a bang. Our 2019 strategy is focused in a number of areas.
We keep an incredibly close eye on what audiences are responding to, both in the UK and beyond. And we don’t just look at entertainments but across all genres. It’s a really useful way of shaping your thinking when you’re developing ideas for us. Event TV has been landing well, from one-offs like The Real Full Monty and Jesus Christ Superstar Live to stripped pieces like Millionaire. This is particularly true in drama where Luther and Manhunt landed brilliantly; what’s our version? Big names are bringing big audiences across all genres, Idris Elba in Luther to Bradley Walsh in Breaking Dad. This is particularly true with celebrity travel, from Michael Palin to Billy Connelly. Joyful and warm TV is working across all genres, from reality like Love Island and I’m a Celebrity to and more traditional entertainment like Michael McIntyre’s Big Show. Big scale formats are making a huge comeback, especially in the US, with exciting new shows like The Masked Singer, The Titan Games and Songland – all of which feature non-TV celebrity talent either hosting or involved. Nostalgia continues to land whether in drama biographies like Torvill and Dean, with entertainment reboots like Dancing On Ice or brilliant docs like Bros: When the Screaming Stops; how do we do nostalgia in a Channel 4 way? Anniversaries remain an important hook from 10 years of the Inbetweeners to the recently announced 25th anniversary reunion of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Interestingly these trends are consistent across the industry and all genres. We can help keep you updated across what’s working but it’s well worth your development teams keeping track themselves.
Big Name Talent Vehicles for 9pm
Talent is absolutely key to all our thinking. We’ve always been at our best when our shows are authored: built around unique pieces of talent who bring a distinctive tone and have something to say – whether it’s the broad brilliance of Chris Evans, Richard Ayoade’s unique take on The Crystal Maze, the epic stunts of Derren Brown, or the brilliant and ridiculous world of Big Narstie. Having focused on new talent in 2018 now we want to hear your ideas for big name vehicles.
We are particularly interested in hearing your ideas for ‘real world’ talent: people who aren’t traditional TV presenters. What superstar could transform a show with an unexpected tone and authorship? What passion piece would attract a big name to the Channel? We want to hear your thoughts. While obviously we want you to be realistic, please don’t be limited by a sense that someone is too famous or would never do it. In the US there is a an increasing trend of adding scale to entertainment formats by attaching huge names: Beat Shazam with Jamie Foxx, Mental Samurai with Rob Lowe, Dwayne Johnson on The Titan Games, Ricky Gervais on Child Support, Ellen’s Game of Games. (Not forgetting of course older shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race). ITV have played a similar trick recently with Dawn French on Little Big Shots and Jeremy Clarkson on the rebooted Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
2018 showed a real trend for experiential comedic, warm journeys with celebrities that we are keen to tap into. The Real Marigold Hotel, The Real Full Monty Live, and Michael Palin in North Korea are all warm celebrity led formats that really suit their channels. How do we tap into this trend so that it works for us – more mischievous, surprising and subversive but with warmth and relationships still at their heart? How would we ramp up the stakes to make an entertainment format that feels uniquely Channel 4? Again, we are happy to help you with more detailed creative steers and guidance to get the right tone and ambition. We are looking for series and one-off event pieces.
Big New Formats for 9 and 10pm
While talent-led projects remains a key priority for entertainment, we are also in the market for comedy ents formats which are built around an interesting and distinctive top line or concept and feel big and ambitious. These could be original formats or interesting global formats that are funny, warm and joyful. These are not shows necessarily built around any talent, though we welcome your thoughts for who might host them too.
We have had success in the past with shows such as Friday Night Project, 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush and now we are looking for the generation of these sorts of shows for prime time Fridays. We realise these formats are some of the hardest to crack but we are committed to finding the right ones for 2019 and are very happy to work with you to get there. So if you need to book in for brainstorms or more creative steers and guidance, we want to help you shape interesting top lines that are right for C4.
Similarly, if you have access to formats from around the world that you think are funny and warm, we would be interested in talking to you about how they could be tweaked and developed for us. Recent shows that have excited us include Queer Eye, Roast Battle and particularly The Masked Singer; what other formats would have a similar effect?
Christmas and New Year
Christmas is always a key time for us. Alongside seasonal specials of our regular shows it’s a brilliant time to launch new things or work with unexpected - and not traditionally Channel 4 – talent. Recently we’ve had great success with a wide range of Christmas specials, from Miranda Does Christmas to The Price is Right to The Inbetweeners Fwends Reunited, and a with wide list of people from established names like Danny Dyer and Rob Rinder to new talent like Courtney Act. What links all of these shows and people is a sense of warmth and celebration: simply put they feel like treats.
We have a number of peak slots around Christmas and New Year and we’re looking for real treats to fill them. Who deserves their own special on Christmas Day? What superstar can we tempt to Channel 4 for a mega one-off? Big Fat Quiz remains a brilliant and important brand (with over 3.5 million viewers and a huge young share), but what other piece of event TV can we play alongside it? This year we saw in 2020 with a brilliant two hour Last Leg Special (which we’ll be doing again); historically we’ve had great success with Alan Carr’s Specstacular. What other piece of fat, funny TV should we be making around New Year’s Eve? Is it another version of a bonkers party? Is it a supersized end of year – or end of decade – review? Should we be planning a huge live event? We celebrated the Inbetweeners on New Year’s Day with a two hour reunion show (and huge ratings): what should sit in that slot on New Year’s Day 2020 that has similar scale and audience appeal? We need to be commissioning into these slots really soon so please send us your ideas.
Event TV for early 2020
We are super keen to commission large scale piece for the beginning of 2020 (where historically we’ve played The Jump). We want the sort of shows that will make the side of a bus as well as the front page of Broadcast, It could be a gigantic, live one-off (like Guy Martin’s Wall of Death Live) or a week-long strip. It could be linked to an anniversary or real world event (The Jump was linked to the Winter Paralympics; so think about Japan and the Olympics/Paralympics for example. it could be a huge noisy stunt like Derren Brown’s Apocalypse or it could be a distinctly Channel 4 spin on traditional event territory in the way that Stand Up To Cancer feels like a very C4 way of doing a telethon. What it will definitely be is creative, noisy, ambitious and a little bit frightening. It may well be authored by key piece of massive talent, or they could feature a wider cast of famous faces like The Real Full Monty Live). All the examples above all brilliant, ambitious pieces of television; what should our equivalents be to kick off 2020?
Stand Up To Cancer Related Opportunities
Stand Up To Cancer has grown from a high-risk commission into a channel defining - and award winning - live event. As a biannual campaign there is no telethon this year but Stand Up will still be an important and visible brand across 2019. The Great Stand Up To Cancer Bake Off will return and we have announced a celebrity version of SAS: Who Dares Wins. And there are more opportunities available, particularly in late Autumn where we traditionally run a season of shows under the SU2C umbrella.
We feel that the Stand Up brand is now strong enough to move beyond revivals or celebrity versions of existing C4 shows. That’s not to say we won’t consider these if the idea and treatment is distinct and noisy enough, but we’re particularly keen to hear your new ideas. What exciting things have you always wanted to do that might suddenly be possible under the SU2C banner? What ideas could only happen, or could become bigger and better because SU2C gives them a reason or purpose?
The Real Full Monty and Soccer Aid were both brilliant examples of brand new charity events but what are our version of these shows? David Walliams’ channel swim was a complete game changer as a celeb-led fundraising stunt; what is our equivalent? And please don’t think that fundraising or a message has to be front and centre – the original Celebrity Crystal Maze is a great example where SU2C provided a purpose without it dominating the editorial of the show.
Quiz Shows for 8pm
We are starting the hunt for a new and exciting quiz show to play at 8pm. The Million Pound Drop was a fantastic success for us in this area – what would be our fresh, new version of it? We’re not interested in physical game shows, we are looking for shows that are more cerebral and question-based. Richard Osman’s House of Games, and the revamp of Who Wants to be a Millionaire with its stunt booking of Jeremy Clarkson at the helm, are all doing well for their respective channels. We’re now looking for our own primetime, big-scale quiz, with a mischievous and dynamic tweak for Channel 4.
As with the rest of our slate, our ambition is for a big-name, exciting host to lead our quiz show. They needn’t be a known presenter (although please don’t rule that out); we would also love to hear your suggestions of real-world names that have the skills and charisma to deftly host a quiz. We’d also like to make sure that, whichever format we commission, it has the possibility of being scaled-up for celebrity player versions.
We’re looking for a big, ambitious show, but we’re keen to make sure that it’s a cost effective format. So please think creatively about how your idea could be filmed in blocks.
Out of Studio Entertainment
We also want to hear entertainment ideas set outside the studio. Traditional studio shows are expensive and can limit the scope of a format, while US shows like Billy On The Street and Ru Paul’s Drag Race exist in their own worlds and are free to be more anarchic as a result. You don’t need to be in a studio to create an entertainment hit, as Gogglebox proves. Think about where your talent would naturally inhabit, or equally where would be surprising for them to be discovered? We also welcome ideas from indies who have lots of experience on location, but might not be established studio entertainment producers and want to pitch out of studio ideas. If the format, talent and setting are daring and different, then we want to hear your idea.
Late Night Live
Live shows have always been at the heart of Channel 4 Entertainment from The Big Breakfast and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush through to The Comedy Awards, The Jump and of course The Last Leg. And we’re looking for more. We’re particularly interested in hearing your ideas for a late night live show that could play at 11pm. It should be funny, provocative and spiky but it also needs to feel fresh and present tense: to be frank we usually get pitched cover versions of TFI Friday with someone different behind the desk. Whatever we commission could be a totally different tone or shape – it could be a noisy debate show (like Big Brother’s Big Mouth) or a mix of entertainment and provocative journalism like The Word. It will almost certainly be driven by a singular piece of talent with a very clear tone of voice. We don’t have enough live TV in our current slate: please help us put that right.
Shows We Love
It’s always helpful to have examples, so here are some entertainment shows that have impressed us recently or older shows we just love, both on Channel 4 and other broadcasters. We’d love to hear your versions of these shows:
Noisy One-Offs and Events
Guy Martin’s Wall of Death Live; Jesus Christ Superstar Live; The Real Full Monty Live/Ladies Night; The Jump; Derren Brown Apocalypse; The Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis; Soccer Aid; The Channel 4 Mash Up.
The Masked Singer; Songland; Roast Battle; Queer Eye; The Wall; Taskmaster; Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush; The Word; Love Island.
Big Name Authored Shows
John Legend’s Legendary Christmas; Ellen’s Game of Games; Michael McIntyre’s Big Show; A League Of their Own Road Trip; Bros: When the Screaming Stops; Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule.
What We Don’t Want
It’s worth saying what we definitely don’t want: we’re not actively looking for game shows or more panel shows. We’re not after reality or social experiments. We don’t want shiny floor talent shows. We’re well served for satire and 11pm ideas so unless it’s something spectacular we don’t need more. And it goes without saying we’re not after versions of shows on other channels; ideas you bring us should feel distinctly Channel 4.