Channel 4 has posted a modest rise in revenue for the year as it looks to shift its focus to digital viewing amid a “challenging” economic environment.
The broadcaster reported a 1.5 per cent rise in revenue to £975m in 2018, as record digital revenue offset a decline in traditional viewing. Pre-tax profit hit £5m, marking its first surplus in three years after hefty investment in programming.
It was a tough year for Channel 4 News, which suffered a nine per cent decline in viewing figures. The company blamed this drop partly on “Brexit fatigue”.
The firm also reported a drop in popularity among youth and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) audiences, which are two of its key demographics.
However, programme views on the broadcaster’s on-demand platform All 4 hit 915m, up 26 per cent year-on-year, reflecting the ongoing shift in viewing habits.
Channel 4 unveiled plans to invest in original content for teenagers that will be distributed over YouTube and other social media platforms, as it looks to double down on its digital presence.
“Despite a challenging market, Channel 4 delivered great results in 2018, with growth in our revenues and digital playing a more important role than ever,” said chief executive Alex Mahon.
“Most importantly we continued to make an impact with innovative, purposeful and popular television, film and journalism.”
The results, published in the firm’s annual report, come amid a new strategy that will see Channel 4 shift its headquarters from London to Leeds and open new creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow.
Mahon today confirmed that up to 90 per cent of staff may take voluntary redundancy instead of moving to the broadcaster’s new base in a former Leeds nightclub.
Some staff, including top management, are expected to remain in Channel 4’s office on Horseferry Road.
Media regulator Ofcom said it believed Channel 4 had met its remit and content duties well, but warned against too much of a reduction in spending on original programmes.
The public-service broadcaster faces growing competition from deep-pocketed streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, which have pumped billions into creating their own hit films and TV shows.
Channel 4 is currently in discussions with ITV and BBC over its participation in their joint streaming venture Britbox, which has been slated as a potential rival to Netflix.