Channel 5 boss Ben Frow has offered a frank assessment of the state of the industry and the struggles it faces in the coming months, saying if he thinks too far ahead he gets “really frightened”.
The director of programmes said he has had to rip up all the schedules and rebuild from scratch as the landscape has changed so radically amid the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking during a controller session at the Edinburgh TV Festival, which is taking place online this year, he said: “I really don’t know where we are going to go, I don’t know what the world is going to look like in nine months’ time and what television will look like, and in a way I can’t go there.
“I know it’s my job to go there but I sort of can’t go there because if I go there I just get really frightened about it being impossible and about it being unachievable and about us being in a situation where we can’t do it.
“So I’m afraid it’s a little bit unhelpful to everybody but at the moment it’s very much about the next three, six months, it’s about trying to get through this and be as pragmatic as we can.
“What can we do? There is so much that we can’t do, so let’s look at what we can do. How can we prepare? What can we rework, how can we revisit? How can we reposition ideas so that we can do them to fill the schedule to keep people working, to keep the show on the road?”
He continued: “And then gradually as things become clearer, we will be able to breathe a little bit easier and maybe we can start to see a path through the trees, where we can start to make plans.
“But at the moment I can’t make plans because I don’t know if it’s going to be next month that lockdown ends and to what level will it end and to what level will we be able to function?
“We’ve got to be really smart about this and find a way of managing our own destiny and not rely on the Government and the country to open everything up and take us back to where we were.”
Frow said he decided from “really early on” that he was not interested in programmes about Covid-19, saying: “Leave that to the BBC, Channel 4, let them have it. My strategy was business as usual, let’s keep doing what we are doing.
“I don’t want programmes that look like they were made during a virus, I don’t want Zoom-y-like programmes, they are very time-specific and we need to be investing money in content that we can get a lot of use out of.”
Asked about the future of Blind Date and Gino’s Win Your Wish List on the channel, Frow said: “They are both very expensive shows, they are hard to schedule on Channel 5.
“Blind Date we haven’t recommissioned at the moment. I probably won’t if I’m honest about it.
“Gino, we still have episodes to play out and who knows how they will land? We are always looking at the schedule.”