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‘Leaving Neverland’ Sets Streaming Record for U.K.’s Channel 4

Leaving Neverland” has broken streaming records for the U.K.’s Channel 4, CEO Alex Mahon said Tuesday.

During her keynote address at INTV in Jerusalem, Mahon said that Dan Reed’s controversial Michael Jackson documentary has also been the most downloaded Channel 4 show ever and took a 45% share of young audiences on linear TV.

Mahon said that “Leaving Neverland” was “originally a Channel 4 idea” and the initial plan was to do a one-off. But Reed brought so much material that it became clear there was enough to make it a four-hour series, which is when HBO came on board, Mahon said.

She added that “Leaving Neverland” reflected Channel 4’s commitment to deliver thought-provoking, investigative content that can appeal to young and savvy audiences. “[Jackson’s] legacy is changed worldwide…His music has been taken off playlists; we’ve had lawsuits, protests outside the building,” Mahon said, referring to Jackson fans who gathered outside Channel 4 headquarters in London to protest the documentary’s broadcast last week. “This is exactly what Channel 4 exists to do: to bring this scandal to life.”

Documentary series like “Making a Murderer” have been hits on the network’s streaming services, but “we haven’t seen this [type of ratings success] on linear TV before,” Mahon said.

On the scripted side, Mahon, who used to run Shine, said it had become a necessity to join forces with streaming services to finance ambitious shows. “It’s a complex landscape for broadcasters. The prices of scripted have gone through the roof,” Mahon said, citing Channel 4’s collaboration with Hulu on “The Handmaid’s Tale” and with Netflix on “The End of the F***ing World.”

But if the financial input from streamers is crucial, “it’s as important for broadcasters to get the brand attribution,” she said. “You need viewers to know it’s you. We need to have that attribution, whether the shows will be streamed or on linear.”

Mahon also reiterated that Channel 4 was in talks to join BritBox, the new “best of British” television streaming service created by the BBC and ITV, which launched in the U.S. in 2017 and will soon be rolling out in the U.K.

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