Good titles are essential for a programme to succeed in a multi-channel world, Liam Humphreys said yesterday.
‘Titles are everything. You can have the best concept in the world, a brilliantly made programme but without a great title you have lost the chance to connect with the audience,’ he told the Edinburgh International TV Festival.
Channel 4’s head of factual entertainment said that strong titles were essential for a programme to win viewers, and a key ingredient for meeting Channel 4’s public service remit.
‘Channel 4’s job is to make really difficult subjects accessible. Brilliant titles put bums on seats and enable us to speak to young audiences,’ he said.
Citing the example of The Undateables, he said the title had been a significant factor in the Betty series being watched by more than 3m people – a 10.4% share – making it one of Channel 4’s most successful series of 2014. Had the channel stuck with the working title – Disabled and Looking for Love – Humphreys predicted the series would have done well to win a third of that number.
Ben Frow, director of programming at Channel 5, agreed, saying: ‘The title needs to punch through and tell people what the show’s about and convey some expectation of the emotional feeling they will get to it. Is it funny? Serious? Moving?
‘If people don’t watch a show of ours, the first thing I think is: ‘We got the title wrong.’’
It said there was a real art to finding a title that connects with audiences in just the 34 characters available on the EPG.
Frow said he often changed titles at the last minute once he’s seen what rival broadcasters are scheduling in the slot – much to the chagrin of the independent producers. ‘We change things right up to publication [of the schedules] when we see what Channel 4 and ITV are doing. It can drive the producers mad, but it’s important.
‘We had a programme called Animal Hoarders – which was fine as a title. But when I saw what the others were doing we changed it to The Woman with 40 Cats. People want to watch her. They wouldn’t tune in for a hoarder.’
‘It’s like copywriting: you’ve got to sell your product in a very accessible way.’
Humphreys said that it is important - if possible - to get the right programme title early on, 'as it helps focus the production on what we're making.'
'The best titles are quite visceral,' he added.