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As an entrepreneur, he formed restaurant chains like Pizza Express and Strada, but Luke Johnson, who steps down as Channel 4 in the New Year, has cooked up some tasy media experience, too.
Opening Wednesday’s UK Association of Online Publishers summit in London with a plea for innovation, he warned: “The legacy media industries are going to have to face the fact that they’ve enjoyed a period of unparalleled profitability – the only other industry I know of that’s replicated that is pharmaceuticals. That era is coming to an end.
“In this age of very low barriers to entry, where the consumer thinks all content should be free, it’ going to be about lower, harder returns, lower margins, more ongoing investment and and possibly more opportunities and fragmentation of operations. It’s gonna take hard work.
“The traditional legacy media industry is going to have to go through that painful period of renewal. It’s going to require brave and sometimes dangerous decisions – and it’s probably going to require some companies to fail and some to merge and new ones to arise.”
Channel 4’s own 4iP (4 Innovations for the Public) fund is sitting on £20 million in C4 funds (and another £30 million from regional media development agencies) at a time when the broiadcaster is facing just the kinds of financial pressures Johnson described.
But Johnson urged delegates to embrace collaborative, creative innovation by developers in their 20s. “We need to keep that almost innocent faith that tomorrow will be a better day.” he said, lambasting “pessimists”. “It’s not just that they’re depressing to be around, it’s that they deplete our resourcefulness.”
“Life is more exciting if you adopt a great or even a modest cause … keep moving and stay restless … the age of the great inventor, the Nikola Tesla figure, is drawing to a close, but the time for teams is coming to the fore.”