April 16, 2024


EXCLUSIVE: The former UK chief of one of Europe’s biggest production giants has been drafted in by Channel 4 to advise on the formation of its in-house productions unit.

Lucinda Hicks, who left her Banijay UK CEO post two years ago, will be consulting with Channel 4 two days per week over the coming months to help with the network’s strategy to seek “diversified revenue streams,” which includes in-house productions and comprises part of its Fast Forward blueprint. CEO Alex Mahon is understood to be keen to have a fleshed-out plan in place by the end of this year depending on the success of the media bill currently making its way through parliament.

Reporting into Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Allan, Hicks is working closely with Mahon and content boss Ian Katz on the plans.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said Hicks is examining how the broadcaster can “explore the potential of intellectual property ownership and any gradual, considered move we may make into it.” She will also look at “scaling diversified revenue streams to support our long-term sustainability and increase our impact with viewers, including building e-commerce, growing Channel 4+ and expanding our social footprint.”

Lucinda Hicks

Banijay

Hicks is a respected UK production vet who was CEO of Banijay UK for two years, taking on the post after the French-headquartered powerhouse acquired Endemol Shine Group for $2.2B, thereby overseeing the likes of Big Brother, Peaky Blinders and MasterChef while helping Banijay through the Covid-19 pandemic. She has also held commercial roles with Fremantle and the BBC.

Hicks’ consultancy will likely prove a talking point within UK production industry circles that are keeping a beady eye on what Channel 4 does with its nascent in-house powers. Production companies are keen for Channel 4 to get back to some semblance of commissioning normality following a tough year in which greenlights ground to something of a halt and some financial pain was felt to have been passed on to indies.

The Gogglebox network is hoping the media bill will clear parliamentary hurdles in the coming months and it can subsequently have a solid in-house plan in place later in 2024, drawn up with Hicks’ assistance, we are told.

Launching an in-house productions unit that will allow the pubcaster to own its shows for the first time in its 40-year history was the brainchild of former UK Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan when Channel 4 privatization was reversed around 15 months ago.

The move has, however, proved controversial as holding onto their Channel 4 rights and selling these shows around the world has been a bedrock for many small British production houses. Channel 4 has repeatedly stressed that it was the government that came up with the in-house plan, and that it will only be introduced with added quota commitments to ‘true indies’ and in consultation with the production sector. Regulator Ofcom will also be handed new statutory powers to review how Channel 4 is using in-house to ensure the sector is not being harmed.

“While [in-house] will never alter our fundamental belief in the importance of independent producers in the UK, it is important, subject to the Media Bill passing through Parliament, that we properly review this opportunity,” added the spokeswoman. “To support wide-ranging diversification work, Lucinda Hicks has joined us on a consultancy basis.”

Hicks is consulting as Channel 4 implements its biggest round of redundancies in 15 years, with 240 staff exiting. The 45-day consultation period, which was extended to 60 back in February, ended last week and new commissioning heads of department have been set. The likes of drama boss Caroline Hollick, fact-ent head Alf Lawrie and youth controller Karl Warner are leaving, with promotions handed to Ollie Madden, Alisa Pomeroy and Steven Handley. Amid the redundancies, Deadline revealed last month that Mahon and Katz will accept bonuses this year, while senior leader pay, which hit record highs in 2023, will be reduced by 30% to 40%.

The Mahon-led Fast Forward blueprint also features plans to sell Channel 4’s London Horseferry Road premises and focus on digital growth, transformation and “reengineering the business for a digital-first world.” 



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