Viacom’s U.K. Network Channel 5 Delivers Record Revenue, Profit

'Celebrity Big Brother' equaled its highest-ever share of viewing among 16-34s this year

Viacom-owned British television network Channel 5 Broadcasting, which the U.S. media giant bought two years ago, reported record annual revenue and profit Monday, delivering the first consecutive years of profitability in its 20-year history.

For the year to Sept. 30, the free-to-air broadcaster recorded an operating profit of £58.4 million ($72.4 million) against £14.9 million ($18.5 million) for the previous financial year. Revenue increased 19% year-on-year to £383.6 million ($475 million) compared to £322.7 million ($400 million) in 2015. Channel 5 Broadcasting retained a profit after tax and extraordinary items of £42.3 million ($42.3 million) against £36.5 million ($45.2 million) in the previous financial year.

The company’s revenue, largely from advertising, benefited from a strong ratings performance compared with its main free-to-air competitors. For the second financial year running, Channel 5’s family of channels was the only terrestrial portfolio to grow its share of total TV viewing in the U.K. in the year to Sept. 30, rising from 5.99% to 6.13%.

This ratings uplift is more impressive given the high-profile summer sporting events hosted by rival channels, including the Rio Olympics and the UEFA Euro soccer tournament.

The network enjoyed particularly strong ratings growth among younger audiences with a 9% increase in share of viewing among 16-to-34-year-olds, reflecting a dynamic performance by 5Star, which had its best-ever year with young audiences (up 32% year-on-year) and Spike in its first full year on air.

David Lynn, president of U.K., Northern and Eastern Europe at Viacom Intl. Media Networks, commented: “Channel 5 is radically different to the network Viacom first looked at buying three years ago; it has an entirely new look, and just seven shows still broadcasting that were on air in 2013.

“This transformation has taken place under American ownership, but it is being driven by original British content. We’ve transformed the business model, through our advertising partnership with Sky Media and by getting Channel 5 to work more closely with our pay-TV channels, making it sustainably profitable for the first time, in spite of recent economic uncertainty.”

Viacom Intl. Media Networks, which operates Viacom channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Paramount Channel and Spike across 180 territories, bought Channel 5 in September 2014. The group now owns or part-owns and operates more than 25 TV channels in the U.K., attracting close to 12% of viewing among 16-34 year-olds, and making it the third-biggest privately held broadcast media group in the U.K. market.

Returnable reality shows continue to form the backbone of Channel 5’s schedule, with new ratings hits such as “The Yorkshire Vet” and “Eamonn and Ruth: How the Other Half Lives” joining existing favorites including “Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild” and “Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away.”

Channel 5 has also returned to original comedy and entertainment, and enjoyed critical acclaim with mockumentary “Borderline” and its highest entertainment ratings in recent years with a U.K. version of Viacom’s “Lip Sync Battle.”

Channel 5 continued to build on its slate of history shows with “Henry VIII and His Six Wives” and natural history with “Loch Lomond: A Year in the Wild.” Special new episodes of “The X-Files” delivered the highest ratings for drama in the channel’s history, while “Celebrity Big Brother” equaled its highest-ever share of viewing among 16-34s during its run in January.

Channel 5’s channels are regular buyers of Hollywood shows and movies. Recent examples include series “American Horror Story,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “NCIS New Orleans,” and movies “Hercules” and “22 Jump Street.”

Channel 5 also reported more online viewing of its shows via its rebranded My5 player, which delivered an 18% year-on-year increase in streams during the financial year. A My5 linear TV channel was also launched in August, replacing time-shifted network Channel 5 +24.

In February, Channel 5 unveiled a refreshed brand identity across the network portfolio, which led to “an upturn in positive perceptions about the Channel 5 brand amongst young and more upmarket viewers,” the company said.

Last month, Viacom completed the relocation of Channel 5 to its refurbished Camden campus in North London.

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