Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

Innovative C4 hoping its diversity can make up the numbers for advertisers

Am I the only person in the world who doesn't find Alan Carr funny? Apparently so. I've asked around and everyone seems to love him. So it was only me who found the last hour of Channel 4's upfronts event last week excruciatingly painful.

Played out in the style of the comedian’s TV show – Alan Carr: Chatty Man – his overexcited, sweaty diatribes and clumsy segues combined perfectly with his inability to listen to any of his "guests", apart from to interject with playground innuendo or awkward nonsense.

That’s exactly what makes him so funny, I’m assured. Attempts to force Nigella Lawson to swap double entendres with the boys from The Inbetweeners were, at best, naïve. Lawson opted instead to speak eloquently about her commissioned US show, The Taste – think The Voice but with food.

'The ability to innovate requires the space to fail and the broadcaster has certainly been experimenting'

Fortunately, she was helped on stage by an impressive array of C4 talent, including the illusionist Derren Brown and our favourite giant, the Man Down star Greg Davies. The serious stuff had all been taken care of beforehand, with the likes of Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Adam Hills and Jamie Oliver reminding us of the diverse talent C4 has nurtured over the years.

If nothing else, it proved that you can’t please all of the people all of the time – a mantra that must be top of mind at C4 right now. After the highs of the Paralympics, 2013 was always going to be tough. Sure enough, share of audience for its flagship channel has since tumbled by 11 per cent. By comparison, the Olympic channels BBC One and BBC Two are down around 4 per cent.

Over the next year, C4 will be reminding us of its not-for-profit status and remit to step beyond convention through its "born risky" campaign. The ability to innovate requires the space to fail and, now in its second year of "creative renewal", the broadcaster has certainly been experimenting. In fact, new programmes accounted for more than 60 per cent of Jay Hunt’s schedule this year. Details of Channel 4's upcoming programming here.

Sales director, Jonathan Allan, says it is this eclectic nature that makes C4 so valuable for advertisers. Ohal, the WPP analytics consultancy, found that, in nearly 50 client models, C4 produced a "statistically significant" uplift in sales over other sales houses. Allan’s message was clear: "If you want more sales, buy more Channel 4."

Whether it will be enough to carry C4 as it goes into a fierce trading season remains to be seen. The broadcaster will be glad it doesn't have to face another showdown with WPP's GroupM just yet, with last year's well publicised spat ending in a two year deal. But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t sensed knives being sharpened in certain quarters.