Black Monday: TV Industry Faces Layoffs at Channel 4 and Paramount, Says Producer Ash Atalla

LONDON, UK – The TV industry is experiencing a “Black Monday” with proposed layoffs at Channel 4 and Paramount, according to Ash Atalla, the renowned producer of “The Office” and “IT Crowd.” Atalla predicts a decrease in the number of shows being made this year, resulting in financial hardships for freelancers. The slowdown in the industry, compounded by redundancy plans, has had a significant impact.

Channel 4 announced plans to lay off approximately 240 staff members as part of its “Fast Forward” strategy. This strategy involves merging Film4 and TV drama commissioning, and it will also affect hit shows such as “Big Boys,” produced by Atalla’s Roughcut TV. In the US, Paramount, which owns Channel 5, is preparing for hundreds of layoffs, with Maria Kyriacou, the head of its international studios, stepping down.

Speaking on a panel organized by the Royal Television Society, Atalla described Monday as a “Black Monday” for the world of TV. He mentioned that the market for hiring new talent is not looking promising, as more crews are available, signaling a slowdown. Atalla believes there will be fewer shows made this year, which will exacerbate the financial struggles faced by freelance workers.

The Film & TV Charity’s research on the UK TV and film industry revealed that nearly half of the freelance community is facing financial difficulties. With TV commissioning undergoing a “massive reset,” according to Patrick Holland, the head of Banijay UK, freelancers must consider reskilling and exploring different parts of the industry.

Mid-range factual shows, which cost between £150,000 and £250,000 per hour, have disappeared from the market. However, premium unscripted content from Banijay labels continues to perform well. Holland sees opportunities for freelancers outside of London, as priority areas for production are expanding beyond the capital.

A trend described as “fewer, bigger, better” is dominating TV commissioning. Big bets, such as the reboots of “Big Brother” and “Survivor,” have paid off. The reboot of “Gladiators” has also achieved record ratings for the BBC. Atalla suggested that broadcasters may opt for lower-budget scripted shows similar to ITV’s successful post office drama. He emphasized the importance of simple, old-fashioned storytelling over excessive spending.

Atalla urged broadcasters to take risks on new talent, highlighting the success of Jack Rooke’s “Big Boys” and its improved performance in the second season. He emphasized that overnight ratings do not tell the whole story and broadcasters need to be patient with new shows, as success often takes time.

As the TV industry undergoes significant changes and faces challenges, it is crucial for broadcasters to adapt and explore new strategies while continuing to support emerging talent. The future of the industry will depend on their ability to navigate these changes successfully.