C4 unveils record $1 bil sales

New business spend to hit $300 million

LONDON — Channel 4 has posted sales of £716 million ($1.03 billion) for 2000, up 12% and the cult terrestrial’s highest tally ever. Profits were down 34% to $31 million due to investment in new businesses.

Advertising sales grew 8% to $934 million, bucking the downward trend that has impacted ITV, the U.K.’s biggest commercial web. A C4 source, however, predicted that the general downturn in ad sales in Britain would hit C4 in the second quarter of this year.

C4 has also formally launched 4 Ventures Ltd., the new division incorporating the channel’s film, multichannel, international and new media interests.

C4 cited its FilmFour premium pay TV channel as a the current success story.

Sales for the service – which airs C4’s home made arthouse fare as well as other edgy product – doubled to nearly $13 million and subcriptions are now approaching 450,000. Break even is put at 800,000 subs.

C4 chief exec Michael Jackson said investment in its ancillary businesses would be upped from 4% of C4’s budget last year to 10% this year. In total, approaching $300 million is designated for digital TV and online services.

The lion’s share is going to C4’s biggest gamble, E4, the general entertainment digital channel launched early this year. E4 is budgeted at $57 million for 2001 and is expected to cost twice that before turning a profit in 2005.

Jackson described the outlay for C4’s non-core businesses as “sensible and scalable,” and added that in the longer term C4 could seek outside investment to further growth.

That, Jackson said, would likely entail finding partners for 4 Ventures subsids rather than flotations, as has been speculated. C4, however, is technically a pubcaster and remains opposed to being privatized.