The former chief executive of Channel 4 Lord Grade and ITV are reportedly mulling takeover bids amid government plans to privatise the network.
Lord Grade, who was at the helm of Channel 4 between 1988 and 1997 and also chaired the BBC and ITV, is considering snapping up the network The Times first reported.
Earlier this month Lord Grade, who is on a panel advising ministers on the future of public service broadcasting, urged a House of Lords committee to shake up the channel’s ownership saying “the status quo is not an option.”
“The time to change the nature of Channel 4 is now, before it falls over, before it succumbs to the inevitable decline,” he said, warning that the network behind The Great British Bake Off is “in a straitjacket of regulation and statutes that completely prevent it from taking advantage of what it has achieved so far.”
The government is consulting on the privatisation of Channel 4 which is understood to be its preferred option and with peers in the process of investigating the network’s remit and ownership through an inquiry. Ministers have appointed JP Morgan to provide corporate finance advice on Channel 4’s potential change in ownership.
ITV is expected to throw its hat into the ring if the government pushes ahead with a sale and Sky, now owned by US media giant Comcast, may also make a bid according to The Times. At least one US private equity firm has sounded out advisers in London.
According to industry experts Channel 4, which last year generated revenues of £934m with a pre-tax profit of £74m, is valued at approximately £500m.
The lion’s share of the youth oriented broadcaster’s income is from advertising, but the company is facing tough competition from streaming rivals such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Youtube, which are increasingly attracting younger audiences.
The network’s current chief executive Alex Mahon is against privatisation and has warned that shifting to a for-profit model would harm Channel 4’s ability to support independent producers.