Why Channel 4 moved its upfronts to the summer

The arrival of a new chief executive and director of programmes this year prompted Channel 4 to move its annual showcase for brands and agencies event to July, the broadcaster's chief commercial officer reveals.

We like to shake things up at 4Sales and, in keeping with that, we’re moving our upfronts to the summer for the first time tomorrow with our biggest ever event at The Roundhouse representing Channel 4, UKTV, BT Sport and Box Plus. 

It’s the culmination of a phenomenally exciting first half of the year, which has already taken in some massive new hits, a couple of Oscars for Three Billboards…, the scoop of the year with Channel 4 News’s Cambridge Analytica investigation, and of course the news that Shipwrecked is coming back to E4 in 2019!

The main reason for the move to the summer is that Alex Mahon and Ian Katz recently joined us as chief executive and director of programmes and we wanted to create an earlier opportunity for them to talk to all of our clients and agencies on their vision for the future of Channel 4. At the heart of this new strategy is a focus on supercharging our impact with young people and accelerating Channel 4’s digital capabilities.

Alex will talk more to the brands and agencies in the room about how we’re going to do that – including investing more in E4 and All 4, investing more in comedy, and building more big young brands of scale on Channel 4.

Of course, at the heart of every good upfronts is the programmes themselves. Ian Katz will talk about his creative strategy to dial up the difference in the schedule and ensure that Channel 4 remains both popular and purposeful.  He’ll also showcase the sort of upcoming slate that differentiates Channel 4 from anyone else – from Benedict Cumberbatch playing Dominic Cummings through to new comedy, The Bisexual, written by Desiree Akhavan; or new romantic dating show, Flirty Dancing.

If anything 2018 has been the year that TV fought back against the prevailing fashion for online platforms. We’re seeing strong evidence that the pendulum is swinging back towards mass reach in a high quality, regulated context. Our Upfronts will be another important opportunity for me to showcase the continuing effectiveness of television – building on the work we’ve done in partnership with Thinkbox, ITV and Sky across the year.

We’ll also be giving the 1,200 people coming along the opportunity to be part of some of Channel 4, UKTV and BT’s biggest hits with 14 immersive zones, including The First Dates bar, an opportunity to try Celebs Go Speed Dating, a look inside Yianni: Supercar Customiser's cars, hanging out on the sofa with some Goggleboxers or even reading Channel 4 News from our special studio.

Jonathan Allan is chief commercial officer at Channel 4

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