Head of scheduling and strategy,
More4 and E4
Paul Mortimer finds himself scheduling two very different channels as scheduler for both More4 and E4, Channel 4′s cable offerings. But his overriding goal for each is the same: lure viewers away from the terrestrials, and keep them once they’ve arrived.
Having worked at UK terrestrials Five and ITV, Mortimer says scheduling for cable and satellite is a fresh challenge. ‘It’s a different discipline scheduling multi-channel television, not least because you don’t exist way up the EPG,’ he says. ‘Cable and satellite are more like default television. So if you’re not catered to by BBC1 or ITV or Channel 4, you might decide you’re going to skip down the EPG and see what somebody else has to offer. The way we look at it is once the viewer makes that leap then we really want to hang onto them.’
E4 targets 16- to 34-year-olds, with a focus on general entertainment. ‘E4 is the most commercial of all C4′s channels because our sole purpose with E4 is to get 16- to 34-year-olds watching good television,’ says Mortimer. E4 strips plenty of American series, most visibly the two half hours of Friends shown every night of the week. ‘We’re there to have people enjoy television in a passive way. So we don’t need to package our programming up on E4 into seasons or theme nights.’
Over at More4, the target is ABC1 viewers, with a more discerning palate. ‘A lot of the More4 audience might find E4 quite a dumb channel. That’s fair enough and perfectly acceptable. The type of viewer we get is probably someone who would engage more with the programming and have a passion for that kind of television,’ says Mortimer.
It’s easier, once you’ve got a viewer, to hold on to that viewer if in the next slot you give them something that is as close to the show you’ve just watched as anything
At More4, programming is frequently packaged into themes, such as a recent Arab season which offered a window into Middle Eastern cinema. The channel airs more subtitled foreign language programming than can be found just about anywhere on British TV. In fact, having such a niche audience is liberating as a scheduler, according to Mortimer. ‘It doesn’t matter if we don’t engage the world and his wife so long as there is an audience for the type of factual programming we do, in particular in primetime,’ he says.
Since Mortimer moved to More4 and E4 just over a year ago, he has worked to consolidate the ‘True Stories’ strand, which had previously been scheduled erratically, into a reliable slot. The strand runs many international documentaries as well as authored films by homegrown heroes such as Nick Broomfield. In addition to designating Tuesday as its night, Mortimer moved ‘True Stories’ from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. to coincide with heavy switchout from the terrestrial channels. Mortimer uses the 9 p.m. window to get people to the channel with the accessible, light architecture program Grand Designs. ‘We warm up the slot so that at 10 o’clock there is an audience there that has to make an active choice not to watch it. Because they are difficult films sometimes to get people into if they’re not already on your channel.’
More4 saw about a 20% growth in 2007 for the ABC1 demo. Sunday nights are a particular success, pulling in twice as many viewers as any night of the week with lighter-end factual, usually pulled from C4. ‘It’s the kind of thing that has not been overused on Channel 4, so it gets a second wind on More4.’ Both E4 and More4 air a heavy amount of C4 content to exploit secondary rights.
Mortimer has also seen a ratings lift for ‘True Stories,’ considered a success if it brings in 150,000 viewers. ‘It doesn’t sound like a huge amount,’ he admits. ‘But if you consider the fragmentation in multi-channel, that is pretty good going. Because the one thing ‘True Stories’ has is a lovely ABC1 adult profile. There’s not much wastage for advertisers in ‘True Stories.’ They get their money’s worth.’