MTV and Unilad high-flyers to join Channel 4 in Leeds after recruitment drive

Channel 4 has announced new head of its Digital Content Unit (DCU) ahead of the broadcaster launching in Leeds.

Matt Risley. Credit: Channel 4.
Matt Risley. Credit: Channel 4.

Matt Risley, currently MTV’s digital director, will take the role ahead of the broadcaster setting up in the Majestic next year.

-> Channel 4 boss Alex Mahon in passionate call for local content ahead of Leeds HQ openingReporting to Zaid Al-Qassab, chief marketing officer at Channel 4, Mr Risley will lead the DCU’s creative and operational strategy from December.

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The unit will be Channel 4’s new in-house digital agency, commissioning and producing digital content for social and digital platforms.

Matt Risley. Credit: Channel 4.

Mr Risley said: “I’m hugely excited to join Channel 4 at such a transformative time. It’s a brand full of incredible shows and digital properties, and I can’t wait to help build a creative team focused on engaging, entertaining and educating young audiences online.”

The DCU "will ensure Channel 4 engages and influences young audiences in the places they are increasingly spending more time – with content that is either tailored or specifically created to maximise reach and viewing across key social media channels," said the broadcaster

Mr Risley will work closely with Channel 4’s new Head of Digital Commissioning, who is yet to to be appointed, other departments including marketing, commercial and consumer insight – and with independent producers to support new digital talent and the broadcaster's investment in youth-focused content and audiences.

At MTV, Mr Risley heads up editorial, production and social strategy for Viacom’s international digital studio in London, and the creation of youth-focused content across TV, movies, lifestyle, music and entertainment for MTV’s social platforms.

Matt Ford. Credit: Channel 4.

He was previously MTV’s international entertainment editor and before that held online editor and producer roles at Total Film and Sky Atlantic/Sky 1 Online.

-> Leeds's Independent Directions Film Festival to champion new talent with screenings, VR and industry tipsMr Al-Qassab said: “Matt has a proven track record in delivering successful and award-winning social digital content for young audiences and possesses a strong commercial acumen. His outstanding strategic and creative leadership will be critical as we build the DCU into a best-in-class internal digital agency.”

4Sales will establish a commercial division within the DCU and Matt Ford, former commercial director of Unilad, has been appointed to lead the department.

His team will work with brands to provide access to Channel 4’s leading creative talent to develop social-first digital content for distribution across key social media channels such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

As part of the team led by Jonathan Lewis, head of digital and partnership innovation at Channel 4, as well as with Mr Risley, Mr Ford will be responsible for driving future social-first branded entertainment revenues which will directly compete with outlets such as Joe Media, Ladbible, VICE and Jungle Creations.

Mr Ford has spent the last four years building Unilad’s commercial business into a multi-million pound operation.

In the last six months he worked as a business consultant for Manchester-based Social Chain andrecently delivered a strategic project for VICE in the UK.

-> Channel 4 boss Ian Katz says Leeds move has won 'universal enthusiasm'Mr Lewis said: “Having developed a youth content platform into a multi-million pound commercial business, Matt will be a valuable asset to 4sales’ new DCU division and to all our advertising partners who want to create compelling social-first Branded Entertainment that resonates with young people wherever they are.”

Mr Ford said: “I’m delighted to have joined Channel 4 at such an exciting time. The DCU will be creating content specifically for Channel 4’s social platforms which will mean more original, branded and programme content distributed to a young audience in their stories and news feeds. There is a great opportunity for advertisers to create premium Branded Entertainment that lives on social and I’m looking forward to making some amazing content.”

He joins Channel 4 this month.

This summer, Channel 4 announced the first digital content commission for the DCU will be factual strand 4Real, including more than 100 original factual films targeted at 16 to 34-year-olds. The strand launches late 2019 and will be produced by Barcroft Studios.