Ch. 5 predicts profit in 2000

5% viewing share exceeding goal

LONDON — Channel 5, the U.K.’s fifth terrestrial TV channel, predicts it will achieve its first full-year operating profit in the year 2000 — with profits estimated in excess of £10 million ($16 million).

Speaking at C5’s fall programming launch, chief exec David Elstein said, “Our most recent trading quarter — just the ninth after launch — showed an operating profit. Although we will lose money for the year as a whole, 1999 will be the last year we do so.”

When it launched in the spring of 1997, C5’s stated goal was a 5% viewing share. For the past 16 weeks, the share has exceeded 5%.

The upbeat performance could trigger a shift in C5’s shareholders. U.S. venture capital group Warburg Pincus may choose to sell its 18% stake. United News & Media is believed to be interested in upping its 29% holding, as are Luxembourg-based CLT/Ufa (29%) and media group Pearson (24%).

In its first year, the channel spent only $176 million on programming.

“Over the next five years,” Elstein said, “we plan to inject a 25% real increase in program spend into our schedule, and we may not stop there.”

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