While broadcasters are known to engage in friendly (and sometimes, not so friendly) competition, it’s unlikely they’re entering into a cutthroat battle for each other’s formats.
Execs from ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC and Sky took the stage yesterday (Aug. 24) as part of the Edinburgh International Television Festival’s annual leaders’ debate.
While BBC2 Newsnight presenter Evan Davis, who chaired the conversation, asked pointed questions regarding the pubcasters’ declining audience numbers, BBC3′s move online, and SVOD influence, mention of The Great British Bake Off‘s infamous move from BBC to Channel 4 prompted Davis to question whether we’re likely to see more networks making big moves to buy ratings juggernauts from their competitors.
Ben Frow, director of programming with Channel 5, was quick to shut down the idea, noting that the shows C5 has are “part of its DNA.”
According to Frow, 18 of the channel’s 20 most successful shows were created internally, with Blind Date and Big Brother being the exceptions.
“I don’t really want a show from another channel…I want Bake Off ratings, but I’d be much happier with a channel that doesn’t have Big Brother,” he said. “I don’t really want other people’s programs. I want my own that I’ve created.”
Ralph Lee, deputy chief creative officer with Channel 4, justified the move, noting that in the end Bake Off will help generate revenue that the broadcaster can in turn commit to original programming.
BBC’s Charlotte Moore had spoken candidly during in the session earlier in the day about the Great British Bake Off, saying the decision to let it leave was difficult, but necessary to pay for other shows. At the Leaders’ Debate, Moore spoke more generally about the importance of original programming, noting that the industry has always been competitive.
“It doesn’t always equate that the program you pay the most for will be the biggest hit,” she said.
Moore was also asked to re-address the gender pay gap discrepancy that became apparent earlier this year following the salary disclosures of BBC’s top talent and execs. The topic of salaries acted as a springboard for a larger discussion about ensuring diversity both on and offscreen. Also up for debate was how to ensure programming could be representative of everyone in the UK when so many head offices are based in London.
All the broadcasters assembled are in support of a new online system created by The Creative Diversity Network, aimed at obtaining consistent diversity data on programs they commission. The initial report from Diamond gave an overview of diversity and representation in the UK’s TV industry, including age, ethnicity and gender.
“Commissioners have all been challenged to look at every program and ask, ‘Is it representative?’” said Frow. “It’s not just about color, it’s not just about sexuality, it’s not just about London, it’s about people who don’t have degrees — about working class people, those people that need to be invited into television. I like to employ people who are talented, passionate, driven and ambitious, whether they have a degree, whether they have a regional accent or not. We have to open our minds up a little bit.”