Channel 4 has today updated its staff on a reorganisation of its Executive team responsibilities to ensure the business is set up to deliver its Future4 strategy, which was launched in November.
At the heart of the strategy is greater investment in digital transformation of Channel 4 and a focus on putting viewers at the heart of decision making. The changes to the leadership responsibilities support and enable this in three main areas:
- Integrating and simplifying the content team structure
- Aligning teams who have a key role in our viewer experience outside of programming
- Integrating business strategy and policy development
Reflecting Channel 4’s increased focus on digital, all editorial decision making across linear, streaming and social will be consolidated under Ian Katz, who becomes Chief Content Officer.
This will include Acquisitions, which moves from Commercial Affairs to report into Kiran Nataraja who is promoted to Director of Content Strategy & Planning and will focus on optimising content planning and investment across streaming and linear services. Emma Hardy is also promoted to the role of Director of Commissioning Operations and will focus particularly on optimising Channel 4’s producer and talent strategies.
Channel 4 will also move its features commissioning to its Glasgow Creative Hub, further bolstering its commitment to devolving commissioning decision-making to the Nations & Regions – with Glasgow -based Jo Street, currently Head of Daytime taking on additional responsibility for the genre and becoming Head of Features & Daytime. Head of Features & Formats, Sarah Lazenby is leaving Channel 4.
Jo Street will be one of a reconfigured and smaller number of Heads of Commissioning reporting directly to Ian Katz. Karl Warner will also become Head of Youth & Digital with a brief to commission young skewing content that will drive both E4 and all digital platforms. Full details of the changes in Commissioning are outlined in the full press release below.
Viewer and customer activity will be brought together within an expanded marketing and viewer experience division under Chief Marketing Officer and I&D Director, Zaid Al-Qassab. Chief Product Officer, Dave Cameron and the All 4 Product team will move to report into this expanded division to help ensure an integrated viewer experience. The content and corporate communications teams will also move into the marketing and viewer experience division, together with the newly created Audience Integration team – alongside the existing marketing, brand, media, continuity and social teams, and the in-house agencies 4creative & 4Studio. Channel 4 will be recruiting for a new Marketing Director and a Communications Director, reporting into Chief Marketing Officer, Zaid Al-Qassab.
In operations, under Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan Allan; the Public Policy and Public Affairs teams will be brought together with Strategy & Consumer Insight, reporting to Director of Strategy & Consumer Insight, Khalid Hayat. This reflects the close relationship between delivery of Channel 4’s strategy and the organisation’s public policy, as well as its relationships with key stakeholders. There will also be a new role of Technology Director, bringing together all of the organisation’s technology teams including systems delivery and information systems. Sinead Rocks, Managing Director for Nations & Regions will take on additional responsibility for the Channel 4 Project Management Office; and the internal communications team will also move to be part of the People team under Director of People, Kirstin Furber.
Announcing the new structure Alex Mahon, Chief Executive said: “To deliver our Future4 strategy we need to adapt and innovate in the way we are organised as a business. The changes we’re announcing today give Channel 4 a clearer and simplified structure and will enable us to accelerate our focus on digital, put viewers at the heart of our decision making and will also ensure we become even more agile and responsive in the way we operate with all our stakeholders and partners, particularly those in the production sector.”
Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs James MacLeod has decided to leave Channel 4. He has played a substantial role as part of the Executive Management team in development and launch of the new Future4 digital strategy, the organisation’s renewed purpose and vision, as well as major projects such as the 4 All the UK Nations & Regions strategy. Over nine years at Channel 4 he has made a significant contribution to the organisation’s creative, commercial and operational work and created impact with major campaigns from the Paralympic Games through to the launch of The Great British Bake Off on 4. He will stay with the business until the summer to help support the implementation of the new strategy, its ongoing work on the PSB Review and the transition to the new structure.
Paying tribute to James MacLeod, Alex Mahon said: “James has been a tremendously important member of the senior team for several years. He is very much at the heart of all we do at Channel 4 and I’m extremely grateful for his leadership, wise counsel and the absolutely critical role he played last year in our response to the pandemic and the launch of our new Future4 strategy.”
“James’ ability to hone complex issues into clarity of message, always mindful of the wider picture, is second to none and his judgement is always spot on. He has incredible stamina, intellect and a very deeply held belief in and commitment to all that is great about Channel 4. We will be saying goodbye to someone who has had a hugely positive impact on every single part of the organisation.
“He’ll be leaving Comms in great shape, having set up a new Internal Comms team which has been central to so much of our staff engagement during the pandemic. As well as delivering a really successful strategy launch, our press and corporate coverage has been excellent under his leadership and an awful lot of great work has been achieved and continues apace by the Policy team. He will be much missed when he departs [in the summer] but before then there is plenty to be done and I am personally delighted that James will be with us for a good few months to come.”
Chief Executive Alex Mahon will have six direct reports comprising the organisation’s CEO Committee: Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan Allan and Chief Content Officer, Ian Katz, who both sit on the Channel 4 Board; as well as Chief Marketing Officer, Zaid Al-Qassab; Chief Revenue Officer, Verica Djurdjevic; Director of Film 4, Daniel Battsek; and Director of Commercial Affairs, Martin Baker.
The organisation’s Executive Management Board will include all the CEO Committee in addition to Finance Director, Vince Russell; Managing Director, Nations & Regions, Sinead Rocks; Chief Product Officer, Dave Cameron; Director of Strategy & Consumer Insight, Khalid Hayat; Director of People, Kirstin Furber and Director of Communications, James MacLeod.
Commissioning changes in detail
In commissioning, all of Channel 4’s creative and editorial decision making across linear, streaming and social will be brought together under Ian Katz, who will become Chief Content Officer.
There will be fewer programme genres and fewer layers to help further improve speed of decisions and make the channel simpler to interact with.
Channel 4’s features commissioning responsibility will be moved to the Nations & Regions, boosting the content spend and commissioning power outside London.
With the features department moving, Head of Features & Format, Sarah Lazenby is leaving Channel 4 after nearly six years at the organisation. The existing Formats & Features slate will be taken on by other genre teams, including Factual Entertainment, Entertainment; and Features & Daytime – including responsibility for More4 commissioning – which will be led by Jo Street.
The currently-vacant role of Head of Specialist Factual will not be filled, with Danny Horan continuing to take responsibility for all factual programming across documentaries and specialist factual.
In total there will be then be seven genre commissioning Heads of department, two fewer than previously.
Kiran Nataraja, currently Head of Portfolio Management and Emma Hardy, Head of Commissioning Management, will take on broader roles, picking up some responsibilities from Kelly Webb Lamb who announced recently that she will be leaving later this year.
Kiran Nataraja will become Director of Content Strategy & Planning, which will combine her existing responsibilities for content investment, planning and scheduling across linear and streaming with the new addition of acquisitions. Nick Lee, currently Head of Series Acquisitions, will become Head of Acquisitions & International and will move from Commercial Affairs to report into Kiran. Kiran has also recently taken on responsibility for all content planning for All 4.
Emma Hardy will become Director of Commissioning Operations and will work closely with Ian to optimise Channel 4’s commissioning processes, production relationships and talent management strategy. She will be recruiting for a new role of Head of Indie Relations whose focus will be on ensuring Channel 4 is a responsive, collaborative and transparent creative partner.
Head of Entertainment, Phil Harris will now report directly to Ian Katz alongside all the genre commissioning Heads: Head of Factual Entertainment, Alf Lawrie; Head of Features & Daytime, Jo Street; Head of Factual, Danny Horan; Head of News, Current Affairs & Sport, Louisa Compton; Head of Drama, Caroline Hollick; and Head of Comedy, Fiona McDermott.
Recognising the central role of E4 content in driving All 4 growth, Karl Warner will become Head of Youth & Digital with a brief to commission young skewing content that will drive both E4 and all digital platforms. He will also be responsible for 4Music and the Box channels. He will recruit for a new Head of Digital Commissioning role, reporting to him with responsibility for social commissioning and a new commissioning role focused on young-skewing shows for E4 and All 4
Chief Content Officer, Ian Katz said: “As we shift our focus to digital viewing, we need a structure which allows us to make joined-up decisions about all platforms and all types of content, originated and acquired, in the round. These changes will help us to do that and I hope they’ll also make us a simpler and speedier creative partner to work with.”
Commissioner for award-winning Great British Bake Off, the biggest show on C4 since modern records began, Sarah Lazenby has overseen a successful slate of shows during her tenure which have brought volume and share to 8pm and won critical acclaim.
Most notably she played a central role in the successful transfer of Bake Off to Channel 4, overseeing the casting of the new hosts and the extended franchise including the recent hit Pottery Throwdown, creating BAFTA nominated comedy consumer show Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back as well as the recent lockdown hits Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On and, with Shaminder Nahal, Grayson’s Art Club.
She started her career at C4 in Entertainment and Factual Entertainment commissioning shows such as Flirty Dancing, and the Grierson award winning Restaurant That Makes Mistakes as well as overseeing hit returners like Naked Attraction, Cats Countdown and The Last Leg: Live in Rio.
The last two years Sarah has run the multi-award-winning Features and Formats department overseeing the largest unscripted slate which is responsible for shows across the portfolio from C4’s classic features shows like Escape To The Chateau, and the entire property portfolio, to E4 reality staples Made In Chelsea and Celebs Go Dating.
She has been responsible for new innovative formats like Mums Make Porn, The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft, as well as breaking new ground for the channel by commissioning the first Netflix unscripted co-pro Crazy Delicious. Her forthcoming commissions include Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig, Rosie Jones’ Trip Hazard, Johnny Vegas Carry On Glamping, and bringing back Changing Rooms.
Sarah Lazenby said: “From putting the madhatter that is Noel into the Bake Off tea party, to launching the nation’s favourite consumer warrior Joe Lycett, all via some atmospheric shows like Flirty Dancing and Art Club, I’ve loved the opportunity to work with some exceptional talent and curate some innovative and joyful formats around them. I look forward to the next creative adventure.”
Paying tribute to Sarah Lazenby, Ian Katz said: “Sarah is a singular creative force who has had an extraordinary impact on Channel 4, from her brilliant stewardship of The Great British Bake Off to her championing of noisy and mischievous shows like Mums Make Porn and Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back. She is a hugely original thinker with a capacity to raise the energy level in any room she enters, and she will be hugely missed both at the channel and on all the productions she has lovingly shepherded onto the screen. I can’t wait to see what she does next.”
For further information:
Head of Corporate PR, Victoria Gillespie: 07976 315 056
Head of Content & Programme PR, Donna Mathews: 07921 409 498