StoryScout 2024

Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Channel 4 Unscripted Strategy: What do they want? What do they pay? An ‘exit interview’ with Fatima Salaria. Watch the video!

Channel 4 is Britain’s youth-targeted, edgy broadcast network.:

  • What is C4’s unscripted strategy?
  • What do they want?
  • What are examples of recent hits?
  • What does C4 pay for programs?

For a Sunny Side Meet the Executive session, Fatima Salaria shared Channel 4’s vision and programming priorities.

Fatima announced today that she is departing C4 to lead Fremantle prodco Naked, leaving her Factual strategy in place, though hit hard by the COVID downturn in advertising revenues.

Watch my informative and exclusive Sunny Side conversation with Fatima Salaria (34′):

(Note: Geo-blocked in UK. See notes below.)

Recorded June 15 2020


  • Channel 4 is the youngest broadcaster in the UK
    • Would like to hold authority to account
    • Questions received wisdom
    • Breaks new ground in approach and in attitude
    • Celebrates knowledge and opinion
    • Wants to have a pleasurable watch and entertain people
  • Targets young viewers
    • Enjoys a cross range of ages
    • Focus on 16-34
  • Tells the stories of people all over the world who may not otherwise have a voice
  • Proud to be home to people of color:  in both representation in front of the camera as well as within the company
  • Advertiser supported/funded


  • Broad returnable shows- make us feel more connected to each other
  • Values co-productions because they give an interconnected view of the world- Australia, other European countries
  • Normally have authored shows- strong point of view
  • Four major genres/buckets
    • Science, Arts, History, a little bit of Natural History
    • BBC does a great job at Wildlife- C4 don’t want to compete
  • Difference between docs and specialist factual
    • Docs- allow the story to play out
    • Specialist factual- always questioning the detail
  • How many hours a year do you commission and acquire
    • Acquire at least 2-3 mini-series per year (3-4 eps)
    • 60 hours across the slate for the year
      • 60% UK domestic
      • 40% international
  • Typical budget (for now)
    • Budgets have been reduced. Don’t have to cut the quality of the content
    • U£150-200,000 for premium
    • UK£80-150,000 for a typical hour
    • Independent producers will split the budget to make docs about important social issues- (partnerships are key).

Recent Hits & Notables

Fatima selected several documentaries to highlight C4’s strategy. Clips are included in the video.

  • Putin series
    • Opportunity to dissect who Putin is
    • Very focused on archive
  • Criminal Justice system series
    • Look at it through several different agencies- prison system, police, social programs
  • Jade series
    • Looks at a person who was born through Reality tv
    • Broad subject that draws in viewers
  • True Crime
    • Huge genre for C4
    • Not very academic, not very niche
    • Appeals to a very large audience
  • Murder in the Outback
    • 4-part series (True Crime)
    • Copro with Australia
    • Ranks as one of the best new series
    • 4 million viewers
    • Huge young audience
    • Amassed 1.4 million viewers for each episode
    • Familiar topic for a British audience
    • Sense of conspiracy, unsolved crime, miscarriage of justice
  • The Queen and the Coup
    • Queen’s involvement in the 1953 Coup in Iran
    • Archive based
    • Revisiting the past and telling you something new
    • Tell moments from history with a unique POV
    • Use the archive extensively as well as having investigative experts and interviews
  • What are you working on now?
    • Made a few programs during lockdown
    • Gathered world renowned scientist to have a factual based debate on Covid

How to Pitch C4

  • Website has emails for different commissioners (by genre)
  • Title, elevator pitch, trailer if you have one- short and sweet
  • Don’t send treatments!

(Notes by Becca Wallance)

Coming Soon:

My Sunny Side interviews with:

  • Jorge Franzini – CuriosityStream
  • Catherine Alvaresse – France Télévisions
  • Chris Hoelzl – Smithsonian Networks