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Here at Made TV there are lots of roles behind the camera, we caught up with our head of programme planning, Mark O’Brien to see what the job entails and what he enjoys most about working at Made TV.

What does an average day at Made TV look like for you? Talk us through your day…

My job ultimately is to make sure we’ve got great programmes across the Made TV network, that we’re putting them on at the right times, that we’re getting plenty of viewers watching them and engaging with them, and finding ways to make money with them so we can make even more and even better programmes. So my days tend to vary!

Today for example I started with a meeting bringing together some of our programming team with our commercial department to look at the clients of one of our account managers, to try and find new and exciting ideas we can take to them. I’ve been planning some of our coverage for the British Travel Awards, the big Oscars for the travel industry later this year for which Made TV is a media partner. Then I spent some time scheduling and planning the promotion around the pilot episode of an interior design show we’re airing later in the summer, to be hosted by a very famous face indeed (think long Cavalier hair and a double-barrelled surname…). And I’ve been talking to some of our producers and channel managers across the network to feedback and work with them on new programme ideas they’ve been pitching and developing. Today was a fairly quiet day though

What is your most memorable / best moment so far at working with Made TV?

There are so many I truly don’t know where to start. When I was a regular presenter on Made in Leeds, I got to go on stage at Leeds Pride and speak to over 30,000 people on Millennium Square; I’ve been a judge at Miss Leeds; I’ve seen my face on a giant electronic billboard in the middle of Leeds (though that was more scary than it was memorable!).

The most memorable part of the job though is the people you come across and the stories you uncover. People like Steve Robinson, who’s featured on Made TV several times – he lost his arm in a motorbike accident as a young man but who since has learnt to fly and become a qualified pilot. Or Arek Hersh, a Holocaust survivor who I met when we produced a documentary about a community-led trip to Auschwitz last year. Or Jamie Ross, who used to be a rough sleeper in Yorkshire before turning his life around and going to work for a homelessness charity, who I met when we ran a network campaign to raise the profile of rough sleeping back in 2015. Meeting great, great people like those and hearing their stories – that’s what will always stay with me most.

You’re now head of programme planning and have been here at Made TV from the very beginning, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen over that time period?

Made TV has just grown and grown. I remember a time when the room that now houses the entire gallery from which we direct and transmit the 6pm news on Made in Leeds was an empty office with me and another bloke trying to figure out how on earth we were going to make great TV shows for the folk of Leeds every single day. Nowadays the entire office is teeming with activity all hours of the day and night as you’d expect at the hub of a national television network.

So many more people know who we are nowadays too. In our early days it used to be a challenge to get powerful people to talk to us, or it was a novelty if our cameras and our Made TV t-shirts were out at a local event. Nowadays the powerful people call us first more often than not as they know how close we are to our viewers and how much respect our local focus earns us; and of course now people aren’t as excited if they spot us in town or at a big community event – they’ve come to expect us to be there, which has to be a good thing.

In your opinion, what is the recipe for a hit programme?

Hmm. I’d probably have to say two guys on camera sitting in a cinema talking about movies…
Seriously if I knew the answer to that I’d be busy smoking a Davidoff at my penthouse overlooking Central Park right now. But I do think viewers long for a positive story that takes them on a journey that’s so captivating that you want to follow it and see where it ends. We love compelling characters we can identify or engage with, and we like (generally) a happy outcome. That basic principle is true whether you’re watching a hard-hitting documentary or a game show, Planet Earth or Pointless.
People respond to humour of course, especially in times when the news seems to be packed with stories about war, terrorism, economic struggle, or just the daily blundering of politicians. There’s the old saying that people don’t remember what you say or what you do; they remember how you made them feel – and that’s true of the best television. A hit programme makes you feel something, whether it’s the tearfulness at the end of First Dates when you see the lovely old couple becoming friends, the laughter and relief when you’re watching Have I Got News For You at the end of a tough week, even the sheer fury when you’re watching Question Time! The best shows simply make us feel something.

If you could have a night out with three TV stars, who would it be and why?

If we’re going clubbing then I’ll bring Louis Theroux – I imagine he’d be good value. I’d have to bring David Attenborough, just because I’d pay good money to hear him narrating what goes on outside Players Bar and McDonalds at 4am. And I’m sure Nigella Lawson could rustle up something carb-heavy for us to battle the munchies at the end of the night.
You can’t beat a bit of old Top Gear / Grand Tour. Can I bring along Clarkson to be designated driver…?